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J Bacteriol. 1998 Dec;180(23):6164-72.

Genetic and sequence analysis of the pTiC58 trb locus, encoding a mating-pair formation system related to members of the type IV secretion family.

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  • 1Departments of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


Conjugal transfer of pTiC58 requires two regions, tra which contains the oriT and several genes involved in DNA processing and a region of undefined size and function that is located at the 2-o'clock position of the plasmid. Using transposon mutagenesis with Tn3HoHo1 and a binary transfer system, we delimited this second region, called trb, to an 11-kb interval between the loci for vegetative replication and nopaline catabolism. DNA sequence analysis of this region identified 13 significant open reading frames (ORFs) spanning 11,003 bp. The first, encoding traI, already has been described and is responsible for the synthesis of Agrobacterium autoinducer (AAI) (I. Hwang, P.-L. Li, L. Zhang, K. R. Piper, D. M. Cook, M. E. Tate, and S. K. Farrand, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:4639-4643, 1994). Translation products of the next 11 ORFs showed similarities to those of trbB, -C, -D, -E, -J, -K, -L, -F, -G, -H, and -I of the trb region of the octopine-type Ti plasmid pTi15955 and of the tra2 core region of RP4. In RP4, these genes encode mating-pair formation functions and are essential for the conjugal transfer of the IncP plasmid. Each of the trb gene homologues is oriented counterclockwise on the Ti plasmid. Expression of these genes, as measured by using the lacZ fusions formed by Tn3HoHo1, required the traI promoter and the transcriptional activator TraR along with its coinducer, AAI. While related to that of RP4, the trb system of pTiC58 did not allow propagation of the trb-specific bacteriophages PRD1, PRR1, and Pf3. The products of several trb genes of the Ti plasmid are similar to those of other loci that encode DNA transfer or protein secretion systems, all of which are members of the type IV secretion family.

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