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Mol Microbiol. 2014 Sep;93(6):1084-92. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12740. Epub 2014 Aug 19.

Heteromeric transposase elements: generators of genomic islands across diverse bacteria.

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Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA.


Horizontally acquired genetic information in bacterial chromosomes accumulates in blocks termed genomic islands. Tn7-like transposons form genomic islands at a programmed insertion site in bacterial chromosomes, attTn7. Transposition involves five transposon-encoded genes (tnsABCDE) including an atypical heteromeric transposase. One transposase subunit, TnsB, is from the large family of bacterial transposases, the second, TnsA, is related to endonucleases. A regulator protein, TnsC, functions with different target site selecting proteins to recognize different targets. TnsD directs transposition into attTn7, while TnsE encourages horizontal transmission by targeting mobile plasmids. Recent work suggests that distantly related elements with heteromeric transposases exist with alternate targeting pathways that also facilitate the formation of genomic islands. Tn6230 and related elements can be found at a single position in a gene of unknown function (yhiN) in various bacteria as well as in mobile plasmids. Another group we term Tn6022-like elements form pathogenicity islands in the Acinetobacter baumannii comM gene. We find that Tn6022-like elements also appear to have an uncharacterized mechanism for provoking internal transposition and deletion events that serve as a conduit for evolving new elements. As a group, heteromeric transposase elements utilize diverse target site selection mechanisms adapted to the spread and rearrangement of genomic islands.

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