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Plasmid. 2005 Jul;54(1):1-25.

The mating pair formation system of conjugative plasmids-A versatile secretion machinery for transfer of proteins and DNA.

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Division of Molecular Microbiology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50/70, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


The mating pair formation (Mpf) system functions as a secretion machinery for intercellular DNA transfer during bacterial conjugation. The components of the Mpf system, comprising a minimal set of 10 conserved proteins, form a membrane-spanning protein complex and a surface-exposed sex pilus, which both serve to establish intimate physical contacts with a recipient bacterium. To function as a DNA secretion apparatus the Mpf complex additionally requires the coupling protein (CP). The CP interacts with the DNA substrate and couples it to the secretion pore formed by the Mpf system. Mpf/CP conjugation systems belong to the family of type IV secretion systems (T4SS), which also includes DNA-uptake and -release systems, as well as effector protein translocation systems of bacterial pathogens such as Agrobacterium tumefaciens (VirB/VirD4) and Helicobacter pylori (Cag). The increased efforts to unravel the molecular mechanisms of type IV secretion have largely advanced our current understanding of the Mpf/CP system of bacterial conjugation systems. It has become apparent that proteins coupled to DNA rather than DNA itself are the actively transported substrates during bacterial conjugation. We here present a unified and updated view of the functioning and the molecular architecture of the Mpf/CP machinery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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