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J Bacteriol. 1996 Jan;178(2):435-40.

Conserved cis-acting promoter elements are required for density-dependent transcription of Agrobacterium tumefaciens conjugal transfer genes.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas 78212, USA.


Ti plasmids of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, in addition to transferring oncogenic DNA to the nuclei of infected plant cells, can conjugally transfer between agrobacteria. Conjugation of wide-host-range octopine-type Ti plasmids requires a tumor-released arginine derivative called octopine. Octopine stimulates expression of the traR gene, whose product directly activates other tra genes in the presence of an acylated homoserine lactone called Agrobacterium autoinducer (AAI). We have localized the transcription starts of three tra promoters and find conserved elements (tra boxes) at virtually identical positions upstream of each promoter. Disruption of these tra boxes abolished induction of each promoter. Deletion analysis of the traI promoter indicates that tra boxes are the only upstream elements required for transcriptional activation. Since Ti plasmid donor cells both produce and respond to AAI, we tested whether expression of tra promoters was enhanced by high concentrations of bacteria. Both tra gene expression and conjugation itself were strongly stimulated either by high donor densities or by exogenous AAI.

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