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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2007 Jul;272(1):99-105. Epub 2007 May 15.

The orf4 gene of the enterobacterial ICE, R391, encodes a novel UV-inducible recombination directionality factor, Jef, involved in excision and transfer of the ICE.

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


The enterobacterial mobile genetic element R391, the prototype ICE (integrating-conjugative element) of the SXT/R391 family, shows increased conjugative transfer following UV irradiation. This is dependent on a functioning R391 orf4 gene, which is adjacent to the element encoded integrase gene, int. orf4 mutants fail to form a detectable circular transfer intermediate, do not show UV induced transfer and show a much reduced general transfer ability. The orf4 gene product, termed Jef (IncJ excision factor), shows little homology to anything currently in the nucleotide or protein databases. It is predicted to encode a 66 amino acid, 8.03 kDa, basic, DNA-binding protein with an iso-electric point of pH 8.1: these characteristics being similar to those of recombinational directionality factors involved in excision. Jef expression is up-regulated upon UV irradiation as demonstrated by real-time reverse transcriptase PCR and is controlled by two element encoded genes orf90 and orf91, which show similarity to the transcriptional activator complex FlhC and FlhD. orf4, orf90 and orf91 are conserved in all the SXT/R391-like elements sequenced to date including SXT, ICESpuPO1 and ICEVchMex1. orf4 is also conserved in other SXT/R391 family members such as R997, R392, R705 and pMERPH as shown by sequencing amplicons from these ICEs generated using orf4 specific primers.

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