Robust replication initiation from coupled homeostatic mechanisms

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Reference M. Berger and P.R. ten Wolde, Robust replication initiation from coupled homeostatic mechanisms, Nature Commun. 13, (1), 6556: 1-13 (2022)
Group Biochemical Networks

The bacterium Escherichia coli initiates replication once per cell cycle at a precise volume per origin and adds an on average constant volume between successive initiation events, independent of the initiation size. Yet, a molecular model that can explain these observations has been lacking. Experiments indicate that E. coli controls replication initiation via titration and activation of the initiator protein DnaA. Here, we study by mathematical modelling how these two mechanisms interact to generate robust replication-initiation cycles. We first show that a mechanism solely based on titration generates stable replication cycles at low growth rates, but inevitably causes premature reinitiation events at higher growth rates. In this regime, the DnaA activation switch becomes essential for stable replication initiation. Conversely, while the activation switch alone yields robust rhythms at high growth rates, titration can strongly enhance the stability of the switch at low growth rates. Our analysis thus predicts that both mechanisms together drive robust replication cycles at all growth rates. In addition, it reveals how an origin-density sensor yields adder correlations.