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J Bacteriol. 2010 Jan;192(1):38-45. doi: 10.1128/JB.00860-09.

Polar positioning of a conjugation protein from the integrative and conjugative element ICEBs1 of Bacillus subtilis.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


ICEBs1 is an integrative and conjugative element found in the chromosome of Bacillus subtilis. ICEBs1 encodes functions needed for its excision and transfer to recipient cells. We found that the ICEBs1 gene conE (formerly yddE) is required for conjugation and that conjugative transfer of ICEBs1 requires a conserved ATPase motif of ConE. ConE belongs to the HerA/FtsK superfamily of ATPases, which includes the well-characterized proteins FtsK, SpoIIIE, VirB4, and VirD4. We found that a ConE-GFP (green fluorescent protein) fusion associated with the membrane predominantly at the cell poles in ICEBs1 donor cells. At least one ICEBs1 product likely interacts with ConE to target it to the membrane and cell poles, as ConE-GFP was dispersed throughout the cytoplasm in a strain lacking ICEBs1. We also visualized the subcellular location of ICEBs1. When integrated in the chromosome, ICEBs1 was located near midcell along the length of the cell, a position characteristic of that chromosomal region. Following excision, ICEBs1 was more frequently found near a cell pole. Excision of ICEBs1 also caused altered positioning of at least one component of the replisome. Taken together, our findings indicate that ConE is a critical component of the ICEBs1 conjugation machinery, that conjugative transfer of ICEBs1 from B. subtilis likely initiates at a donor cell pole, and that ICEBs1 affects the subcellular position of the replisome.

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