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Plasmid. 2011 May;65(3):193-203. doi: 10.1016/j.plasmid.2010.12.006. Epub 2010 Dec 24.

Insertion sequence elements in Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34: distribution and role in adaptation.

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Unit of Microbiology, Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN), B-2400 Mol, Belgium.


Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34 is a β-proteobacterium well equipped to cope with harsh environmental conditions such as heavy metal pollution. The strain carries two megaplasmids specialized in the response to heavy metals and a considerable number of genomic islands, transposons and insertion sequence (IS) elements. The latter were characterized in detail in this study, which revealed nine new IS elements totaling to 21 distinct IS elements from 10 different IS families and reaching a total of 57 intact IS copies in CH34. Analysis of all fully sequenced bacterial genomes revealed that relatives of these IS elements were mostly found in the Burkholderiaceae family (β-proteobacteria) to which C. metallidurans belongs. Three IS elements were 100% conserved in other bacteria suggesting recent interaction and horizontal transfer between these strains. In addition, a number of these IS elements were associated with genomic islands, gene inactivation or rearrangements that alter the autotrophic growth capacities of CH34. The latter rearrangements gave the first molecular evidence for the mutator phenotype that is characteristic for various C. metallidurans strains. Furthermore, differential expression of some IS elements (or adjacent genes in the same strand orientation) was found under heavy metal stress, an environmental stress to which C. metallidurans CH34 is well adapted. These observations indicate that these IS elements play an active role in C. metallidurans CH34 lifestyle, including its metabolic potential and adaptation under selective pressure.

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