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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Jul;45(2):375-95.

Transfer origins in the conjugative Enterococcus faecalis plasmids pAD1 and pAM373: identification of the pAD1 nic site, a specific relaxase and a possible TraG-like protein.

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Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, School of Dentistry, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 48109, USA.


The Enterococcus faecalis conjugative plasmids pAD1 and pAM373 encode a mating response to the peptide sex pheromones cAD1 and cAM373 respectively. Sequence determination of both plasmids has recently been completed with strong similarity evident over many of the structural genes related to conjugation. pAD1 has two origins of transfer, with oriT1 being located within the repA determinant, whereas the more efficiently utilized oriT2 is located between orf53 and orf57, two genes found in the present study to be essential for conjugation. We have found a similarly located oriT to be present in pAM373. oriT2 corresponds to about 285 bp based on its ability to facilitate mobilization by pAD1 when ligated to the shuttle vector pAM401; however, it was not mobilized by pAM373. In contrast, a similarly ligated fragment containing the oriT of pAM373 did not facilitate mobilization by pAD1 but was efficiently mobilized by pAM373. The oriT sites of the two plasmids each contained a homologous large inverted repeat (spanning about 140 bp) adjacent to a series of non-homologous short (6 bp) direct repeats. A hybrid construction containing the inverted repeat of pAM373 and direct repeats of pAD1 was mobilized efficiently by pAD1 but not by pAM373, indicating a significantly greater degree of specificity is associated with the direct repeats. Mutational (deletion) analyses of the pAD1 oriT2 inverted repeat structure suggested its importance in facilitating transfer or perhaps ligation of the ends of the newly transferred DNA strand. Analyses showed that Orf57 (to be called TraX) is the relaxase, which was found to induce a specific nick in the large inverted repeat inside oriT; the protein also facilitated site-specific recombination between two oriT2 sites. Orf53 (to be called TraW) exhibits certain structural similarities to TraG-like proteins, although there is little overall homology.

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