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J Microbiol Methods. 2006 Jul;66(1):32-42. Epub 2005 Nov 28.

Molecular tools to detect the IncJ elements: a family of integrating, antibiotic resistant mobile genetic elements.

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Molecular Biochemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemical and Environmental Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.


The IncJ group of enterobacterial mobile genetic elements, which include R391, R392, R705, R997 and pMERPH, have been shown to be site-specific integrating elements encoding variable antibiotic and heavy metal resistance genes. They insert into a specific 17-bp site located in the prfC gene, encoding peptide release factor 3, in Escherichia coli and other hosts. A key feature of known IncJ elements is the presence of a site-specific recombination module consisting of an attachment site on the element and an integrase-encoding gene of the tyrosine recombinase class, which promotes integration between the attachment site on the element and a similar site on the host chromosome. We have cloned and sequenced the integrases from a number of known IncJ elements and designed PCR primers for specific amplification of this gene. Using conserved regions of enterobacterial prfC genes upstream and downstream of the insertion site, and conserved sequences at the ends of the integrated IncJ elements, we have designed specific primers to amplify across the integrated IncJ attL and attR junction fragments. Alignment of over 30 enterobacterial prfC-like genes indicates that the primers designed to amplify attR junction would amplify IncJ element: host junctions from a wide variety of hosts. The IncJ elements have been shown to sensitise recA(+)E. coli K12 strains to UV irradiation. A simple and rapid procedure for demonstrating this effect is described. These tools should enable the rapid detection of such elements in clinical and environmental settings.

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