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J Bacteriol. Aug 1995; 177(16): 4779–4791.
PMCID: PMC177245

Bacterial conjugation mediated by plasmid RP4: RSF1010 mobilization, donor-specific phage propagation, and pilus production require the same Tra2 core components of a proposed DNA transport complex.

Abstract

DNA transfer by bacterial conjugation requires a mating pair formation (Mpf) system that specifies functions for establishing the physical contact between the donor and the recipient cell and for DNA transport across membranes. Plasmid RP4 (IncP alpha) contains two transfer regions designated Tra1 and Tra2, both of which contribute to Mpf. Twelve components are essential for Mpf, TraF of Tra1 and 11 Tra2 proteins, TrbB, -C, -D, -E, -F, -G, -H, -I, -J, -K, and -L. The phenotype of defined mutants in each of the Tra2 genes was determined. Each of the genes, except trbK, was found to be essential for RP4-specific plasmid transfer and for mobilization of the IncQ plasmid RSF1010. The latter process did not absolutely require trbF, but a severe reduction of the mobilization frequency occurred in its absence. Transfer proficiency of the mutants was restored by complementation with defined Tra2 segments containing single trb genes. Donor-specific phage propagation showed that traF and each of the genes encoded by Tra2 are involved. Phage PRD1, however, still adsorbed to the trbK mutant strain but not to any of the other mutant strains, suggesting the existence of a plasmid-encoded receptor complex. Strains containing the Tra2 plasmid in concert with traF were found to overexpress trb products as well as extracellular filaments visualized by electron microscopy. Each trb gene and traF are needed for the formation of the pilus-like structures. The trbK gene, which is required for PRD1 propagation and for pilus production but not for DNA transfer on solid media, encodes the RP4 entry-exclusion function. The components of the RP4 Mpf system are discussed in the context of related macromolecule export systems.

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Selected References

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