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Trends Microbiol. 2009 Jun;17(6):251-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2009.03.002. Epub 2009 May 20.

A modular master on the move: the Tn916 family of mobile genetic elements.

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Division of Microbial Diseases, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, 256 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8LD, UK.


The Tn916 family is a group of mobile genetic elements that are widespread among many commensal and pathogenic bacteria. These elements are found primarily, but not exclusively, in the Firmicutes. They are integrated into the bacterial genome and are capable of conjugative transfer to a new host and, often, intracellular transposition to a different genomic site - hence their name: 'conjugative transposons', or 'integrative conjugative elements'. An increasing variety of Tn916 relatives are being reported from different bacteria, harbouring genes coding for resistance to various antibiotics and the potential to encode other functions, such as lantibiotic immunity. This family of mobile genetic elements has an extraordinary ability to acquire accessory genes, making them important vectors in the dissemination of various traits among environmental, commensal and clinical bacteria. These elements are also responsible for genome rearrangements, providing considerable raw material on which natural selection can act. Therefore, the study of this family of mobile genetic elements is essential for a better understanding and control of the current rise of antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacteria.

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