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J Bacteriol. 1994 Jun; 176(12): 3646–3660.
PMCID: PMC205554

Genetic complementation analysis of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens virB operon: virB2 through virB11 are essential virulence genes.


The Agrobacterium tumefaciens virB gene products are proposed to assemble into a transport system capable of exporting complexes of DNA and protein across the bacterial envelope en route to plant cells. Nonpolar null mutations were constructed in each of the 11 virB genes of the A. tumefaciens pTiA6NC plasmid. In tumorigenicity assays, delta virB1 mutants exhibited severely attenuated virulence and delta virB2 through delta virB11 mutants exhibited avirulence. NdeI restriction sites introduced at the predicted translational start sites of the virB genes were used to subclone each of the virB genes downstream of the lacZ or virB promoter on broad-host-range plasmids. virB gene expression plasmids were used to define promoter and general sequence requirements for genetic complementation of the deletion mutations. Whereas virB1 and virB2 complemented delta virB1 and delta virB2, respectively, only when expressed in trans from the virB promoter, virB3 through virB11 complemented the corresponding deletion mutations when expressed in trans from either the lacZ or virB promoter. Several virB genes required additional upstream or downstream sequences for complementation: (i) virB2 complemented the delta virB2 mutation only when the complementing plasmid coexpressed virB1 and virB2, (ii) virB6 and virB9 complemented the delta virB6 and delta virB9 mutations only when the complementing plasmids carried at most 55 and 230 bp of sequences residing 5' of these genes, respectively, and (iii) virB7 and virB8 complemented the delta virB7 and delta virB8 mutations only when the complementing plasmid coexpressed virB7 and virB8. These studies established that virB1 is an accessory virulence determinant and virB2 through virB11 are absolutely essential for the A. tumefaciens infection process.

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