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Genetics. 2010 Apr;184(4):947-58. doi: 10.1534/genetics.109.109918. Epub 2010 Jan 18.

Regulation of bacterial conjugation in microaerobiosis by host-encoded functions ArcAB and sdhABCD.

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Departamento de Genética, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla, Seville, Spain.


The virulence plasmid of Salmonella enterica (pSLT) is an F-like conjugative plasmid. High rates of pSLT transfer occur in the mammalian gut, a microaerobic environment. In this study, we describe genetic screens for host-encoded activators and repressors of the transfer operon (tra) of pSLT. We show that the transcription factor ArcA is an activator of conjugation, especially under microaerobiosis. In turn, succinate dehydrogenase (SdhABCD) is a repressor of mating in aerobiosis. ArcA binds upstream of the main tra promoter (p(traY)) and activates tra transcription, as previously described in F, R1, and R100. In the absence of ArcA, transfer of pSLT decreased 7-fold in aerobiosis and >100-fold in microaerobiosis. In aerobiosis, ArcA activates the traY promoter in an ArcB-independent manner, as described in other F-like plasmids. In microaerobiosis, however, the ArcB sensor is necessary for activation of p(traY). Lack of Sdh causes a >20-fold increase in pSLT transfer in aerobiosis, but has little effect under microaerobiosis. Sdh inhibits conjugal transfer by reducing traJ transcription, probably in an indirect manner. In turn, the sdhCDAB operon is repressed by the ArcAB system under microaerobiosis. Hence, the ArcAB two-component system of S. enterica stimulates pSLT transfer under microaerobiosis by two concerted actions: activation of the tra operon and repression of the sdhCDAB operon.

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