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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Aug;33(3):466-75.

Characterization of a single-strand origin, ssoU, required for broad host range replication of rolling-circle plasmids.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


Single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) promoters are the key components of the single-strand origins (ssos) of replication of rolling-circle (RC) replicating plasmids. The recognition of this origin by the host RNA polymerase and the synthesis of a short primer RNA are critical for initiation of lagging-strand synthesis. This step is thought to be a limiting factor for the establishment of RC plasmids in a broad range of bacteria, because most of the ssos described are fully active only in their natural hosts. A special type of sso, the ssoU, is unique in the sense that it can be efficiently recognized in a number of different Gram-positive hosts. We have experimentally deduced the folded structure and characterized the ssDNA promoter present within the ssoU using P1 nuclease digestion and DNase I protection assays with the Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus RNA polymerases. We have also identified the RNA products synthesized from this ssDNA promoter and mapped the initiation points of lagging-strand synthesis in vivo from ssoU-containing plasmids. Through gel mobility shift experiments, we have found that ssDNA containing the ssoU sequence can efficiently interact with the RNA polymerase from two different Gram-positive bacteria, S. aureus and B. subtilis. We have also realigned the narrow and broad host range sso sequences of RC plasmids, and found that they contain significant homology. Our data support the notion that the strength of the RNA polymerase-ssoU interaction may be the critical factor that confers the ability on the ssoU to be fully functional in a broad range of bacteria.

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