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J Bacteriol. 2004 May;186(9):2636-45.

Formation of SXT tandem arrays and SXT-R391 hybrids.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


SXT is an integrative and conjugative element (ICE) isolated from Vibrio cholerae. This approximately 100-kb ICE encodes resistance to multiple antibiotics and integrates site specifically into the chromosome. SXT excises from the chromosome to form a circular but nonreplicative extrachromosomal molecule that is required for its transfer. Here we found that a significant fraction of freshly isolated SXT exconjugants contained tandem SXT arrays. There was heterogeneity in the size of the SXT arrays detected in single exconjugant colonies. Some arrays consisted of more than five SXTs arranged in tandem. These extended arrays were unstable and did not persist during serial passages. The mechanism accounting for the generation of SXT arrays is unknown; however, array formation was not dependent upon recA and appeared to depend on conjugative transfer. While such arrays did not alter the transfer frequency of wild-type SXT, they partially complemented the transfer deficiency of a Deltaxis SXT mutant, which is ordinarily unable to generate the extrachromosomal intermediate required for SXT transfer. Exconjugants derived from donor strains that harbored tandem arrays of SXT and R391, an SXT-related element, contained functional hybrid elements that arose from recA-independent recombination between the two ICEs. Thus, arrays of SXT-related elements promote the creation of novel ICEs.

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