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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2004 Dec 27;51(1):9-17.

The indigenous Pseudomonas plasmid pQBR103 encodes plant-inducible genes, including three putative helicases.

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Center for Ecology and Hydrology NERC, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3SR, UK.


Plasmid pQBR103 ( approximately 400 kb) is representative of many self-transmissible, mercury resistant plasmids observed in the Pseudomonas community colonising the phytosphere of sugar beet. A promoter trapping strategy (IVET) was employed to identify pQBR103 genes showing elevated levels of expression on plant surfaces. Thirty-seven different plant-inducible gene fusions were isolated that were silent in laboratory media, but active in the plant environment. Three of the fusions were to DNA sequences whose protein products show significant homology to DNA-unwinding helicases. The three helicase-like genes, designated helA, helB and helC, are restricted to a defined group of related Pseudomonas plasmids. They are induced in both the root and shoot environments of sugar beet seedlings. Sequence analysis of the three plasmid-encoded helicase-like genes shows that they are phylogenetically distinct and likely to have independent evolutionary histories. The helA gene is predicted to encode a protein of 1121 amino acids, containing conserved domains found in the ultraviolet (UV) resistance helicase, UvrD. A helA knockout mutant was constructed and no phenotypic changes were found with plasmid-conferred UV resistance or plasmid conjugation. The other 34 fusions are unique with no homologues in the public gene databases, including the Pseudomonas genomes. These data demonstrate the presence of plant responsive genes in plasmid DNA comprising a component of the genomes of plant-associated bacteria.

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