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J Bacteriol. 2002 Sep;184(18):5158-69.

R391: a conjugative integrating mosaic comprised of phage, plasmid, and transposon elements.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom.


The conjugative, chromosomally integrating element R391 is the archetype of the IncJ class of mobile genetic elements. Originally found in a South African Providencia rettgeri strain, R391 carries antibiotic and mercury resistance traits, as well as genes involved in mutagenic DNA repair. While initially described as a plasmid, R391 has subsequently been shown to be integrated into the bacterial chromosome, employing a phage-like integration mechanism closely related to that of the SXT element from Vibrio cholerae O139. Analysis of the complete 89-kb nucleotide sequence of R391 has revealed a mosaic structure consisting of elements originating in bacteriophages and plasmids and of transposable elements. A total of 96 open reading frames were identified; of these, 30 could not be assigned a function. Sequence similarity suggests a relationship of large sections of R391 to sequences from Salmonella, in particular those corresponding to the putative conjugative transfer proteins, which are related to the IncHI1 plasmid R27. A composite transposon carrying the kanamycin resistance gene and a novel insertion element were identified. Challenging the previous assumption that IncJ elements are plasmids, no plasmid replicon was identified on R391, suggesting that they cannot replicate autonomously.

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