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J Bacteriol. 2008 May;190(9):3353-61. doi: 10.1128/JB.00109-08. Epub 2008 Mar 7.

Genomic and functional analysis of ICEPdaSpa1, a fish-pathogen-derived SXT-related integrating conjugative element that can mobilize a virulence plasmid.

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  • 1Microbiology Program, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


Integrating conjugative elements (ICEs) are self-transmissible mobile elements that transfer between bacteria via conjugation and integrate into the host chromosome. SXT and related ICEs became prevalent in Asian Vibrio cholerae populations in the 1990s and play an important role in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes in V. cholerae. Here, we carried out genomic and functional analyses of ICEPdaSpa1, an SXT-related ICE derived from a Spanish isolate of Photobacterium damselae subsp. piscicida, the causative agent of fish pasteurellosis. The approximately 102-kb DNA sequence of ICEPdaSpa1 shows nearly 97% DNA sequence identity to SXT in genes that encode essential ICE functions, including integration and excision, conjugal transfer, and regulation. However, approximately 25 kb of ICEPdaSpa1 DNA, including a tetracycline resistance locus, is not present in SXT. Most ICEPdaSpa1-specific DNA is inserted at loci where other SXT-related ICEs harbor element-specific DNA. ICEPdaSpa1 excises itself from the chromosome and is transmissible to other Photobacterium strains, as well as to Escherichia coli, in which it integrates into prfC. Interestingly, the P. damselae virulence plasmid pPHDP10 could be mobilized from E. coli in an ICEPdaSpa1-dependent fashion via the formation of a cointegrate between pPHDP10 and ICEPdaSpa1. pPHDP10-Cm integrated into ICEPdaSpa1 in a non-site-specific fashion independently of RecA. The ICEPdaSpa1::pPHDP10 cointegrates were stable, and markers from both elements became transmissible at frequencies similar to those observed for the transfer of ICEPdaSpa1 alone. Our findings reveal the plasticity of ICE genomes and demonstrate that ICEs can enable virulence gene transfer.

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