Professional Education


  • Bachelor of Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (2012)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University (2018)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications


  • EstG is a novel esterase required for cell envelope integrity in Caulobacter. Current biology : CB Daitch, A. K., Orsburn, B. C., Chen, Z., Alvarez, L., Eberhard, C. D., Sundararajan, K., Zeinert, R., Kreitler, D. F., Jakoncic, J., Chien, P., Cava, F., Gabelli, S. B., Goley, E. D. 2022

    Abstract

    Proper regulation of the bacterial cell envelope is critical for cell survival. Identification and characterization of enzymes that maintain cell envelope homeostasis is crucial, as they can be targets for effective antibiotics. In this study, we have identified a novel enzyme, called EstG, whose activity protects cells from a variety of lethal assaults in the ⍺-proteobacterium Caulobacter crescentus. Despite homology to transpeptidase family cell wall enzymes and an ability to protect against cell-wall-targeting antibiotics, EstG does not demonstrate biochemical activity toward cell wall substrates. Instead, EstG is genetically connected to the periplasmic enzymes OpgH and BglX, responsible for synthesis and hydrolysis of osmoregulated periplasmic glucans (OPGs), respectively. The crystal structure of EstG revealed similarities to esterases and transesterases, and we demonstrated esterase activity of EstG invitro. Using biochemical fractionation, we identified a cyclic hexamer of glucose as a likely substrate of EstG. This molecule is the first OPG described in Caulobacter and establishes a novel class of OPGs, the regulation and modification of which are important for stress survival and adaptation to fluctuating environments. Our data indicate that EstG, BglX, and OpgH comprise a previously unknown OPG pathway in Caulobacter. Ultimately, we propose that EstG is a novel enzyme that instead of acting on the cell wall, acts on cyclic OPGs to provide resistance to a variety of cellular stresses.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2022.11.037

    View details for PubMedID 36516849

  • DiMeLo-seq: a long-read, single-molecule method for mapping protein-DNA interactions genome wide. Nature methods Altemose, N., Maslan, A., Smith, O. K., Sundararajan, K., Brown, R. R., Mishra, R., Detweiler, A. M., Neff, N., Miga, K. H., Straight, A. F., Streets, A. 2022

    Abstract

    Studies of genome regulation routinely use high-throughput DNA sequencing approaches to determine where specific proteins interact with DNA, and they rely on DNA amplification and short-read sequencing, limiting their quantitative application in complex genomic regions. To address these limitations, we developed directed methylation with long-read sequencing (DiMeLo-seq), which uses antibody-tethered enzymes to methylate DNA near a target protein's binding sites in situ. These exogenous methylation marks are then detected simultaneously with endogenous CpG methylation on unamplified DNA using long-read, single-molecule sequencing technologies. We optimized and benchmarked DiMeLo-seq by mapping chromatin-binding proteins and histone modifications across the human genome. Furthermore, we identified where centromere protein A localizes within highly repetitive regions that were unmappable with short sequencing reads, and we estimated the density of centromere protein A molecules along single chromatin fibers. DiMeLo-seq is a versatile method that provides multimodal, genome-wide information for investigating protein-DNA interactions.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41592-022-01475-6

    View details for PubMedID 35396487

  • CENP-N promotes the compaction of centromeric chromatin. Nature structural & molecular biology Zhou, K., Gebala, M., Woods, D., Sundararajan, K., Edwards, G., Krzizike, D., Wereszczynski, J., Straight, A. F., Luger, K. 2022; 29 (4): 403-413

    Abstract

    The histone variant CENP-A is the epigenetic determinant for the centromere, where it is interspersed with canonical H3 to form a specialized chromatin structure that nucleates the kinetochore. How nucleosomes at the centromere arrange into higher order structures is unknown. Here we demonstrate that the human CENP-A-interacting protein CENP-N promotes the stacking of CENP-A-containing mononucleosomes and nucleosomal arrays through a previously undefined interaction between the alpha6 helix of CENP-N with the DNA of a neighboring nucleosome. We describe the cryo-EM structures and biophysical characterization of such CENP-N-mediated nucleosome stacks and nucleosomal arrays and demonstrate that this interaction is responsible for the formation of densely packed chromatin at the centromere in the cell. Our results provide first evidence that CENP-A, together with CENP-N, promotes specific chromatin higher order structure at the centromere.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41594-022-00758-y

    View details for PubMedID 35422519

  • Centromere Identity and the Regulation of Chromosome Segregation. Frontiers in cell and developmental biology Sundararajan, K., Straight, A. F. 2022; 10: 914249

    Abstract

    Eukaryotes segregate their chromosomes during mitosis and meiosis by attaching chromosomes to the microtubules of the spindle so that they can be distributed into daughter cells. The complexity of centromeres ranges from the point centromeres of yeast that attach to a single microtubule to the more complex regional centromeres found in many metazoans or holocentric centromeres of some nematodes, arthropods and plants, that bind to dozens of microtubules per kinetochore. In vertebrates, the centromere is defined by a centromere specific histone variant termed Centromere Protein A (CENP-A) that replaces histone H3 in a subset of centromeric nucleosomes. These CENP-A nucleosomes are distributed on long stretches of highly repetitive DNA and interspersed with histone H3 containing nucleosomes. The mechanisms by which cells control the number and position of CENP-A nucleosomes is unknown but likely important for the organization of centromeric chromatin in mitosis so that the kinetochore is properly oriented for microtubule capture. CENP-A chromatin is epigenetically determined thus cells must correct errors in CENP-A organization to prevent centromere dysfunction and chromosome loss. Recent improvements in sequencing complex centromeres have paved the way for defining the organization of CENP-A nucleosomes in centromeres. Here we discuss the importance and challenges in understanding CENP-A organization and highlight new discoveries and advances enabled by recent improvements in the human genome assembly.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fcell.2022.914249

    View details for PubMedID 35721504

  • Identification and characterization of centromeric sequences in Xenopus laevis. Genome research Smith, O. K., Limouse, C., Fryer, K. A., Teran, N. A., Sundararajan, K., Heald, R., Straight, A. F. 2021

    Abstract

    Centromeres play an essential function in cell division by specifying the site of kinetochore formation on each chromosome for mitotic spindle attachment. Centromeres are defined epigenetically by the histone H3 variant Centromere Protein A (Cenpa). Cenpa nucleosomes maintain the centromere by designating the site for new Cenpa assembly after dilution by replication. Vertebrate centromeres assemble on tandem arrays of repetitive sequences, but the function of repeat DNA in centromere formation has been challenging to dissect due to the difficulty in manipulating centromeres in cells. Xenopus laevis egg extracts assemble centromeres in vitro, providing a system for studying centromeric DNA functions. However, centromeric sequences in X. laevis have not been extensively characterized. In this study we combine Cenpa ChIP-seq with a k-mer based analysis approach to identify the X. laevis centromere repeat sequences. By in situ hybridization we show that X. laevis centromeres contain diverse repeat sequences and we map the centromere position on each X. laevis chromosome using the distribution of centromere enriched k-mers. Our identification of X. laevis centromere sequences enables previously unapproachable centromere genomic studies. Our approach should be broadly applicable for the analysis of centromere and other repetitive sequences in any organism.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/gr.267781.120

    View details for PubMedID 33875480

  • FtsA regulates Z-ring morphology and cell wall metabolism in an FtsZ C-terminal linker dependent manner in C. crescentus. Journal of bacteriology Barrows, J. M., Sundararajan, K., Bhargava, A., Goley, E. D. 2020

    Abstract

    Bacterial cell division requires the assembly of a multi-protein division machinery or "divisome" that remodels the cell envelope to cause constriction. The cytoskeletal protein FtsZ forms a ring-like scaffold for the divisome at the incipient division site. FtsZ has three major regions - a conserved GTPase domain that polymerizes into protofilaments on binding GTP, a C-terminal conserved peptide (CTC) required for binding membrane-anchoring proteins, and a C-terminal linker (CTL) region of low length and sequence conservation. Recently, we demonstrated that the CTL regulates FtsZ polymerization properties in vitro and Z-ring structure and cell wall metabolism in vivo In Caulobacter crescentus, an FtsZ variant lacking the CTL (DeltaCTL) can recruit all known divisome members and drive local cell wall synthesis but has dominant lethal effects on cell wall metabolism. To understand the underlying mechanism of the CTL-dependent regulation of cell wall metabolism, we expressed chimeras of FtsZ domains from C. crescentus and E. coli and observed that the E. coli GTPase domain fused to the C. crescentus CTC phenocopies C. crescentus DeltaCTL. By investigating the contributions of FtsZ-binding partners, we identified variants of FtsA, a known membrane anchor for FtsZ, that delay or exacerbate the DeltaCTL phenotype. Additionally, we observed that DeltaCTL forms extended helical structures in vivo upon FtsA overproduction. We propose that misregulation downstream of defective DeltaCTL assembly is propagated through the interaction between the CTC and FtsA. Overall, our study provides mechanistic insights into the CTL-dependent regulation of cell wall enzymes downstream of FtsZ polymerization.IMPORTANCE Bacterial cell division is essential and requires the recruitment and regulation of a complex network of proteins needed to initiate and guide constriction and cytokinesis. FtsZ serves as a master regulator for this process, and its function is highly dependent on both its assembly into the canonical "Z-ring" and interactions with protein binding partners, all of which results in the activation of enzymes that remodel the cell wall to drive constriction. Using mutants of FtsZ, we have elaborated on the role of its C-terminal linker domain in regulating Z-ring stability and dynamics, as well as the requirement for its conserved C-terminal domain and interaction with the membrane-anchoring protein FtsA for regulating the process of cell wall remodeling for constriction.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/JB.00693-19

    View details for PubMedID 31932314

  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens divisome proteins regulate the transition from polar growth to cell division. Molecular microbiology Howell, M., Aliashkevich, A., Sundararajan, K., Daniel, J. J., Lariviere, P. J., Goley, E. D., Cava, F., Brown, P. J. 2019

    Abstract

    The mechanisms that restrict peptidoglycan biosynthesis to the pole during elongation and re-direct peptidoglycan biosynthesis to mid-cell during cell division in polar-growing Alphaproteobacteria are largely unknown. Here, we explore the role of early division proteins of Agrobacterium tumefaciens including 3 FtsZ homologs, FtsA, and FtsW in the transition from polar growth to mid-cell growth and ultimately cell division. Although two of the three FtsZ homologs localize to mid-cell, exhibit GTPase activity and form co-polymers, only one, FtsZAT , is required for cell division. We find that FtsZAT is required not only for constriction and cell separation, but also for initiation of peptidoglycan synthesis at mid-cell and cessation of polar peptidoglycan biosynthesis. Depletion of FtsZAT in A. tumefaciens causes a striking phenotype: cells are extensively branched and accumulate growth active poles through tip splitting events. When cell division is blocked at a later stage by depletion of FtsA or FtsW, polar growth is terminated and ectopic growth poles emerge from mid-cell. Overall, this work suggests that A. tumefaciens FtsZ makes distinct contributions to the regulation of polar growth and cell division. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

    View details for PubMedID 30693575

  • Species- and C-terminal linker-dependent variations in the dynamic behavior of FtsZ on membranes in vitro. Molecular microbiology Sundararajan, K. n., Vecchiarelli, A. n., Mizuuchi, K. n., Goley, E. D. 2018

    Abstract

    Bacterial cell division requires the assembly of FtsZ protofilaments into a dynamic structure called the 'Z-ring'. The Z-ring recruits the division machinery and directs local cell wall remodeling for constriction. The organization and dynamics of protofilaments within the Z-ring coordinate local cell wall synthesis during cell constriction, but their regulation is largely unknown. The disordered C-terminal linker (CTL) region of Caulobacter crescentus FtsZ (CcFtsZ) regulates polymer structure and turnover in solution in vitro, and regulates Z-ring structure and activity of cell wall enzymes in vivo. To investigate the contributions of the CTL to the polymerization properties of FtsZ on its physiological platform, the cell membrane, we reconstituted CcFtsZ polymerization on supported lipid bilayers (SLB) and visualized polymer dynamics and structure using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. Unlike E. coli FtsZ protofilaments that organized into large, bundled patterns, CcFtsZ protofilaments assembled into small, dynamic clusters on SLBs. Moreover, CcFtsZ lacking its CTL formed large networks of straight filament bundles that underwent slower turnover than the dynamic clusters of wildtype FtsZ. Our in vitro characterization provides novel insights into species- and CTL-dependent differences between FtsZ assembly properties that are relevant to Z-ring assembly and function on membranes in vivo. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

    View details for PubMedID 30010220

  • The intrinsically disordered C-terminal linker of FtsZ regulates protofilament dynamics and superstructure in vitro JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY Sundararajan, K., Goley, E. D. 2017; 292 (50): 20509–27

    Abstract

    The bacterial tubulin FtsZ polymerizes to form a discontinuous ring that drives bacterial cell division by directing local cell wall synthesis. FtsZ comprises a polymerizing GTPase domain, an intrinsically disordered C-terminal linker (CTL), and a C-terminal conserved peptide (CTC). FtsZ protofilaments align circumferentially in the cell, with the CTC mediating attachment to membrane-associated division proteins. The assembly of FtsZ protofilaments into dynamic clusters is critical for cell division, but the interactions between protofilaments and regulatory mechanisms that mediate cluster assembly and dynamics are unknown. Here, we describe a role for the CTL of Caulobacter crescentus FtsZ as an intrinsic regulator of lateral interactions between protofilaments in vitro FtsZ lacking its CTL (ΔCTL) shows a dramatically increased propensity to form long multifilament bundles compared with wild type (WT). ΔCTL also displays a reduced GTP hydrolysis rate compared with WT, but this altered activity does not account for bundle formation, as reducing protofilament turnover in WT is not sufficient to induce bundling. Surprisingly, binding of the membrane-anchoring protein FzlC disrupts ΔCTL bundling in a CTC-dependent manner. Moreover, the CTL affects the ability of the FtsZ curving protein FzlA to promote formation of helical bundles. We conclude that the CTL of FtsZ influences polymer structure and dynamics both through intrinsic effects on lateral interactions and turnover and by influencing extrinsic regulation of FtsZ by binding partners. Our characterization of CTL function provides a biochemical handle for understanding the relationship between FtsZ-ring structure and function in bacterial cytokinesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1074/jbc.M117.809939

    View details for Web of Science ID 000418267000014

    View details for PubMedID 29089389

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5733589

  • Cytoskeletal Proteins in Caulobacter crescentus: Spatial Orchestrators of Cell Cycle Progression, Development, and Cell Shape PROKARYOTIC CYTOSKELETONS: FILAMENTOUS PROTEIN POLYMERS ACTIVE IN THE CYTOPLASM OF BACTERIAL AND ARCHAEAL CELLS Sundararajan, K., Goley, E. D., Lowe, J., Amos, L. A. 2017; 84: 103–37

    Abstract

    Caulobacter crescentus, an aquatic Gram-negative α-proteobacterium, is dimorphic, as a result of asymmetric cell divisions that give rise to a free-swimming swarmer daughter cell and a stationary stalked daughter. Cell polarity of vibrioid C. crescentus cells is marked by the presence of a stalk at one end in the stationary form and a polar flagellum in the motile form. Progression through the cell cycle and execution of the associated morphogenetic events are tightly controlled through regulation of the abundance and activity of key proteins. In synergy with the regulation of protein abundance or activity, cytoskeletal elements are key contributors to cell cycle progression through spatial regulation of developmental processes. These include: polarity establishment and maintenance, DNA segregation, cytokinesis, and cell elongation. Cytoskeletal proteins in C. crescentus are additionally required to maintain its rod shape, curvature, and pole morphology. In this chapter, we explore the mechanisms through which cytoskeletal proteins in C. crescentus orchestrate developmental processes by acting as scaffolds for protein recruitment, generating force, and/or restricting or directing the motion of molecular machines. We discuss each cytoskeletal element in turn, beginning with those important for organization of molecules at the cell poles and chromosome segregation, then cytokinesis, and finally cell shape.

    View details for PubMedID 28500524

  • The bacterial tubulin FtsZ requires its intrinsically disordered linker to direct robust cell wall construction. Nature communications Sundararajan, K., Miguel, A., Desmarais, S. M., Meier, E. L., Casey Huang, K., Goley, E. D. 2015; 6: 7281-?

    Abstract

    The bacterial GTPase FtsZ forms a cytokinetic ring at midcell, recruits the division machinery and orchestrates membrane and peptidoglycan cell wall invagination. However, the mechanism for FtsZ regulation of peptidoglycan metabolism is unknown. The FtsZ GTPase domain is separated from its membrane-anchoring C-terminal conserved (CTC) peptide by a disordered C-terminal linker (CTL). Here we investigate CTL function in Caulobacter crescentus. Strikingly, production of FtsZ lacking the CTL (ΔCTL) is lethal: cells become filamentous, form envelope bulges and lyse, resembling treatment with β-lactam antibiotics. This phenotype is produced by FtsZ polymers bearing the CTC and a CTL shorter than 14 residues. Peptidoglycan synthesis still occurs downstream of ΔCTL; however, cells expressing ΔCTL exhibit reduced peptidoglycan crosslinking and longer glycan strands than wild type. Importantly, midcell proteins are still recruited to sites of ΔCTL assembly. We propose that FtsZ regulates peptidoglycan metabolism through a CTL-dependent mechanism that extends beyond simple protein recruitment.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms8281

    View details for PubMedID 26099469

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4532373