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Mol Microbiol. 2009 Jan;71(1):23-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06488.x. Epub 2008 Nov 10.

Novel archaeal plasmid pAH1 and its interactions with the lipothrixvirus AFV1.

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Institut Pasteur, 25 Rue du Dr. Roux, 75015 Paris, France.


At present very little is known about interactions between extrachromosomal genetic elements in Archaea. Here we describe an Acidianus strain which carries naturally a novel 28 kb conjugative plasmid-like element, pAH1, and also serves as a laboratory host for lipothrixvirus AFV1. In an attempt to establish a system for studying plasmid-virus interactions we characterized the genome of pAH1 which closely resembles those of the Sulfolobus conjugative plasmids pARN3 and pARN4. pAH1 integrates site specifically into, and excises from, the host chromosome indicating a dynamic interaction with the latter. Although nucleotide sequence comparisons revealed extensive intergenomic exchange during the evolution of archaeal conjugative plasmids, pAH1 was shown to be stably maintained suggesting that the host system is suitable for studying plasmid-virus interactions. AFV1 infection and propagation leads to a loss of the circular form of pAH1 and this effect correlates positively with the increase in the intracellular quantity of AFV1 DNA. We infer that the virus inhibits plasmid replication since no pAH1 degradation was observed. This mechanism of archaeal viral inhibition of plasmid propagation is not observed in bacteria where relevant bacteriophages either are dependent on a conjugative plasmid for successful infection or are excluded by a resident plasmid.

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