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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Feb;39(4):1088-99.

Two atypical mobilization proteins are involved in plasmid CloDF13 relaxation.

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Departamento de Biología Molecular (Unidad asociada al CIB, CSIC), Universidad de Cantabria, C/Herrera Oria s/n, 39011 Santander, Spain.


The mobilization region of plasmid CloDF13 was localized to a 3.6 kb DNA segment that was analysed by transposon mutagenesis and DNA sequencing. Analysis of the DNA sequence allowed us to identify two mobilization genes and the CloDF13 origin of conjugative transfer (oriT), which was localized to a 661 bp segment at one end of the mobilization (Mob) region. Thus, the overall organization was oriT-mobB-mobC. Plasmid CloDF13 DNA was isolated mainly as a relaxed form that contained a unique strand and site-specific cleavage site (nic). The position of nic was mapped to the sequence 5'-GGGTG/GTCGGG-3' by primer extension and sequencing reactions. Analysis of Mob- insertion mutants showed that mobC was essential for CloDF13 relaxation in vivo. The sequence of mobC predicts a protein (MobC) of 243 amino acids without significant similarity to previously reported relaxases. In addition to MobC, the product of mobB was also required for CloDF13 mobilization and for oriT relaxation in vivo. mobB codes for a protein (MobB) of 653 amino acids with three predicted transmembrane segments at the N-terminus and the NTP-binding motifs characteristic of the TraG family of conjugative coupling proteins. Membership of the TraG family was confirmed by the fact that CloDF13 mobilization by plasmid R388 was independent of TrwB and only required PILW. However, contrary to the activities found for other coupling proteins, MobB was required for efficient oriT cleavage in vivo, suggesting an additional role for this particular protein during oriT processing for mobilization. Additionally, the cleavage site produced by the joint activities of MobB and MobC was shown to contain unblocked ends, suggesting that no stable covalent intermediates between relaxase and DNA were formed during the nic cleavage reaction. This is the first report of a conjugative transfer system in which nic cleavage results in a free nicked-DNA intermediate.

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