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Gene. 1988 Jun 30;66(2):259-68.

Nucleotide sequence and transcriptional analysis of a third function (Flm) involved in F-plasmid maintenance.

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Department of Microbiology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.


The leading region of the conjugative F plasmid encodes for a function, Flm, capable of extending the maintenance of normally unstable plasmids. Nucleotide sequencing and functional studies of flm locus have shown that it consists of at least two genes, flmA and flmB, which are physically and functionally homologous to hok and sok of parB in plasmid R1. The 52-amino acid flmA-coded polypeptide is almost identical to the hok product which has been shown to be a membrane-associated lethal protein [Gerdes et al., EMBO J. 5 (1986) 2023-2029]. Gene flmB codes for a 100 nucleotide, non-translated, complementary RNA which overlaps the 5' leader sequence of the flmA RNA. The flmA RNA also encodes an open reading frame (ORF70) which overlaps the flmA-coding sequence and may be a third gene involved in the Flm function. S1 analysis and functional studies suggest that the antisense flmB RNA binds to the flmA RNA and suppresses the expression of the lethal product, presumably by blocking coupled translation of ORF70 and flmA. Secondary structure analysis predicts that the flmA RNA is extremely stable compared to the regulatory flmB RNA. We suggest that when these RNA species are retained by cells which have lost the F plasmid, the more stable flmA RNA will eventually be translated thus leading to cell death. This phenomenon provides a third mechanism, additional to ParFIA and Ccd functions, to ensure maintenance of the F plasmid in a growing bacterial population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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