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Annu Rev Phytopathol. 2007;45:129-51.

Genomic insights into the contribution of phytopathogenic bacterial plasmids to the evolutionary history of their hosts.

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Department of Plant Pathology and Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


Plasmids are common residents of phytopathogenic bacteria and contribute significantly to host evolution in a multi-faceted manner. Plasmids tend to encode determinants of virulence and ecological fitness that can enhance adaptation to a specific niche or can influence niche expansion. Many of these determinants appear to have been acquired from other bacteria via horizontal transfer, illustrating an important function of plasmids in the acquisition of sequences that enable rapid evolution. These genes can ultimately be delivered to the host chromosome through plasmid integration events, thus stabilizing important acquired determinants within the genome. Most plasmids characterized in phytopathogenic bacteria are self-transmissible and possess suites of genes encoding type IV secretion systems. In addition, the phytopathogenic bacterial plasmid "mobilome" includes insertion sequence and other transposable elements that contribute to the movement of sequences within and between genomes. Possession of mosaic and ever-changing plasmids allows phytopathogenic bacteria to maintain a dynamic, flexible genome and possible advantage in host-pathogen and other environmental interactions that belies the concept of plasmids as apparently selfish genetic elements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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