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J Bacteriol. 1989 May;171(5):2353-60.

Control of the ccd operon in plasmid F.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mayo Clinic/Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905.


The F sex factor plasmid of Escherichia coli contains a pair of genes, ccdA and ccdB, whose protein gene products are involved in an unusual feature of plasmid maintenance. The CcdB protein is a cytotoxin that becomes activated when the F plasmid is lost, thereby killing the F- segregant cells. In F+ cells, the CcdA protein protects against the lethal effects of CcdB. In the present study we show that ccdA and ccdB expressions are negatively autoregulated at the level of transcription. Genetic studies showed that repression required at least ccdB; ccdA alone was without effect, and ccdB alone was not examined because it is lethal. Ccd-operator complexes were purified and contained a mixture of both CcdA and CcdB proteins; however, we could not conclude from our results whether CcdA was necessary for DNA binding or autorepression. By using restriction fragments of the promoter-operator region, we obtained results indicating that at least two DNA-binding sites existed for the Ccd protein(s). Subsequent footprinting of the binding sites showed protection over about a 113-base-pair region encompassing the putative promoter-operator and the beginning of the ccdA gene.

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