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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Oct;66(2):357-70. Epub 2007 Sep 3.

The rolling-circle plasmid pTN1 from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus nautilus.

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Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie, Univ Paris-Sud, CNRS UMR 8621 and 8619, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France.


The hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus nautilus carries a plasmid, pTN1, which encodes a rolling-circle (RC) replication initiator protein of 74 kDa (Rep74) and an orphan protein of 24 kDa (p24). The Rep74 protein is homologous to the Rep75 protein encoded by the RC plasmid pGT5 from Pyrococcus abyssi. Comparative analysis of Rep74 and Rep75 sequences shows that these proteins correspond to a new family of RC initiators formed by the fusion of a Rep domain with an N-terminal domain of unknown function. Surprisingly, the Rep domain of Rep74/75 is more closely related to transposases encoded by IS elements than to Rep proteins of other RC plasmids. The p24 protein contains a hydrophobic segment, a highly charged region and a zinc finger motif. A recombinant p24 protein lacking the hydrophobic segment binds and condenses both single- and double-stranded DNA, and forms DNA aggregates with extreme compaction at high protein to DNA ratio. In addition to encoding proteins of significant interest, pTN1 is remarkable by being the only characterized plasmid isolated from a Thermococcus strain, thus being useful to develop genetic tools in Thermococcus kodakaraensis for which gene disruption methods became recently available.

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