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Microbiology. 2005 Sep;151(Pt 9):3027-3039. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.28131-0.

An unusual Tn21-like transposon containing an ars operon is present in highly arsenic-resistant strains of the biomining bacterium Acidithiobacillus caldus.

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Department of Microbiology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa.


A transposon, TnAtcArs, that carries a set of arsenic-resistance genes was isolated from a strain of the moderately thermophilic, sulfur-oxidizing, biomining bacterium Acidithiobacillus caldus. This strain originated from a commercial plant used for the bio-oxidation of gold-bearing arsenopyrite concentrates. Continuous selection for arsenic resistance over many years had made the bacterium resistant to high concentrations of arsenic. Sequence analysis indicated that TnAtcArs is 12 444 bp in length and has 40 bp terminal inverted repeat sequences and divergently transcribed resolvase and transposase genes that are related to the Tn21-transposon subfamily. A series of genes consisting of arsR, two tandem copies of arsA and arsD, two ORFs (7 and 8) and arsB is situated between the resolvase and transposase genes. Although some commercial strains of At. caldus contained the arsDA duplication, when transformed into Escherichia coli, the arsDA duplication was unstable and was frequently lost during cultivation or if a plasmid containing TnAtcArs was conjugated into a recipient strain. TnAtcArs conferred resistance to arsenite and arsenate upon E. coli cells. Deletion of one copy of arsDA had no noticeable effect on resistance to arsenite or arsenate in E. coli. ORFs 7 and 8 had clear sequence similarity to an NADH oxidase and a CBS-domain-containing protein, respectively, but their deletion did not affect resistance to arsenite or arsenate in E. coli. TnAtcArs was actively transposed in E. coli, but no increase in transposition frequency in the presence of arsenic was detected. Northern hybridization and reporter gene studies indicated that although ArsR regulated the 10 kb operon containing the arsenic-resistance genes in response to arsenic, ArsR had no effect on the regulation of genes associated with transposition activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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