Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jun;60(5):1302-18.

Investigating the basis of substrate recognition in the pC221 relaxosome.

Author information

Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


The nicking of the origin of transfer (oriT) is an essential initial step in the conjugative mobilization of plasmid DNA. In the case of staphylococcal plasmid pC221, nicking by the plasmid-specific MobA relaxase is facilitated by the DNA-binding accessory protein MobC; however, the role of MobC in this process is currently unknown. In this study, the site of MobC binding was determined by DNase I footprinting. MobC interacts with oriT DNA at two directly repeated 9 bp sequences, mcb1 and mcb2, upstream of the oriT nic site, and additionally at a third, degenerate repeat within the mobC gene, mcb3. The binding activity of the conserved sequences was confirmed indirectly by competitive electrophoretic mobility shift assays and directly by Surface Plasmon Resonance studies. Mutation at mcb2 abolished detectable nicking activity, suggesting that binding of this site by MobC is a prerequisite for nicking by MobA. Sequential site-directed mutagenesis of each binding site in pC221 has demonstrated that all three are required for mobilization. The MobA relaxase, while unable to bind to oriT DNA alone, was found to associate with a MobC-oriT complex and alter the MobC binding profile in a region between mcb2 and the nic site. Mutagenesis of oriT in this region defines a 7 bp sequence, sra, which was essential for nicking by MobA. Exchange of four divergent bases between the sra of pC221 and the related plasmid pC223 was sufficient to swap their substrate identity in a MobA-specific nicking assay. Based on these observations we propose a model of layered specificity in the assembly of pC221-family relaxosomes, whereby a common MobC:mcb complex presents the oriT substrate, which is then nicked only by the cognate MobA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center