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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Jul;41(2):311-23.

Evidence for a rolling-circle mechanism of phage DNA synthesis from both replicative and integrated forms of CTXphi.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, New England Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


The genes encoding cholera toxin, the principal virulence factor of Vibrio cholerae, are part of the circular single-stranded DNA genome of CTXphi. In toxigenic V. cholerae strains, the CTXphi genome is typically found in integrated arrays of tandemly arranged CTX prophages. Infected cells that lack a chromosomal integration site harbour the CTXphi genome as a plasmid (pCTX). We studied the replication of pCTX and found several indications that this plasmid replicates via a rolling-circle (RC) mechanism. The initiation and termination sites for pCTX plus-strand DNA synthesis were mapped to a 22 bp sequence that contains inverted repeats and a nonanucleotide motif found in the plus-strand origins of several RC replicons. Furthermore, similar to other RC replicons, replication of plasmids containing duplicated pCTX origins resulted in the deletion of sequences between the two origins and the formation of a single chimeric origin. Our previous work revealed that CTX prophage arrays give rise to hybrid CTX virions that contain sequences derived from two adjacent prophages. We now report that the boundaries between the sequences contributed to virions by the upstream and the downstream prophages in an array correspond to the site at which synthesis of plus-strand pCTX DNA is initiated and terminated. These data support the model that plus-strand CTXphi DNA is generated from chromosomal prophages via a novel process analogous to RC replication.

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