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Plasmid. 1992 Nov;28(3):183-93.

The large plasmids found in enterohemorrhagic and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli constitute a related series of transfer-defective Inc F-IIA replicons.

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Department of Genetics and Microbiology, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.


Forty-six of 52 (88.5%) enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) strains screened carried a "common" plasmid of about 90 kb which encoded sequences homologous to the Inc F-IIA replicon. A similarly high incidence of Inc F-IIA plasmid-containing strains was observed in other groups of diarrheagenic E. coli, but not in random environmental coliform isolates. Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) contain plasmids of similar properties and share a 23-kb DNA fragment with plasmids from EHEC. The common region encodes the F-IIA replication region and sequences homologous to the transfer operon of the Inc F-II plasmid R1. Sequence homology varied between plasmids isolated from different EHEC/EPEC strains with > 80% showing homology to the regions encoding the rep and par genes. Only 5% of plasmids from EHEC strains had intact sequences homologous to the DNA between these two regions, including the oriT site. Some plasmids with an apparently intact tra operon still failed to plaque F-pilus-specific phages. This is consistent with observations that the large plasmids of EHEC and EPEC are phenotypically nonconjugative. These results suggest that the large plasmids of EHEC/EPEC constitute a family of transfer-deficient Inc F-IIA plasmids with varying degrees of deletion in tra function. The evolutionary ramifications of this finding are considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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