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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2012 Jan;326(1):76-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2011.02432.x. Epub 2011 Nov 2.

Mobilizable narrow host range plasmids as natural suicide vectors enabling horizontal gene transfer among distantly related bacterial species.

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Institute of Biotechnology and Antibiotics, Warsaw, Poland.


Klebsiella pneumoniae 287-w carries three small narrow host range (NHR) plasmids (pIGMS31, pIGMS32, and pIGRK), which could be maintained in several closely related species of Gammaproteobacteria, but not in Alphaproteobacteria. The plasmids contain different mobilization systems (MOB), whose activity in Escherichia coli was demonstrated in the presence of the helper transfer system originating from plasmid RK2. The MOBs of pIGMS31 and pIGMS32 are highly conserved in many bacterial plasmids (members of the MOB family), while the predicted MOB of pIGRK has a unique structure, encoding a protein similar to phage-related integrases. The MOBs of pIGMS31 and pIGMS32 enabled the transfer of heterologous replicons from E. coli into both gammaproteobacterial and alphaproteobacterial hosts, which suggests that these NHR plasmids contain broad host range MOB systems. Such plasmids therefore represent efficient carrier molecules, which may act as natural suicide vectors promoting the spread of diverse genetic information (including other types of mobile elements, e.g. resistance transposons) among evolutionarily distinct bacterial species. Thus, mobilizable NHR plasmids may play a much more important role in horizontal gene transfer than previously thought.

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