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J Bacteriol. 2003 Aug;185(15):4530-8.

Unusual integrase gene expression on the clc genomic island in Pseudomonas sp. strain B13.

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  • 1Process of Environmental Microbiology and Molecular Ecotoxicology, Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, CH 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


An unusual type of gene expression from an integrase promoter was found in cultures of the bacterium Pseudomonas sp. strain B13. The promoter controls expression of the intB13 integrase gene, which is present near the right end of a 105-kb conjugative genomic island (the clc element) encoding catabolism of aromatic compounds. The enzymatic activity of integrase IntB13 is essential for site-specific integration of the clc element into the bacterial host's chromosome. By creating transcription fusions between the intB13 promoter and the gfp gene, we showed that integrase expression in strain B13 was inducible under stationary-phase conditions but, strangely, occurred in only a small proportion of individual bacterial cells rather than equally in the whole population. Integrase expression was significantly stimulated by growing cultures on 3-chlorobenzoate. High cell density, heat shock, osmotic shock, UV irradiation, and treatment with alcohol did not result in measurable integrase expression. The occurrence of the excised form of the clc element and an increase in the rates of clc element transfer in conjugation experiments correlated with the observed induction of the intB13'-gfp fusion in stationary phase and in the presence of 3-chlorobenzoate. This suggested that activation of the intB13 promoter is the first step in stimulation of clc transfer. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a chlorinated compound's stimulating horizontal transfer of the genes encoding its very metabolism.

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