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J Cell Sci Suppl. 1987;7:15-31.

DNA and protein interactions in the regulation of plasmid replication.

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Department of Biology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093.


As for bacterial and animal viruses that employ different mechanisms for their duplication in a host cell, plasmids have evolved different strategies to assure their hereditary stability or maintenance at a specific copy number during cell growth and division. A characteristic feature of plasmid replication control, however, is an involvement of one or more negatively controlling elements. Furthermore, a majority of the bacterial plasmids examined to date contain direct nucleotide sequence repeats at their origin of replication and encode a replication protein that binds to these repeat sequences. The binding of the replication protein (pi protein) specified by the antibiotic resistance plasmid R6K to a set of 22 base pair direct nucleotide sequence repeats is required for the initiation of replication at each of three origins of replication (alpha, beta and gamma) within a 4 Kb segment of R6K. The pi initiation protein is multifunctional in that it has both positive and negative activities in both controlling the initiation of replication and autoregulating its own synthesis. Similarly, the direct repeats of plasmid R6K and several other plasmid systems play more than one role in plasmid replication. These repeats, termed iterons, are not only required for origin activity but also exert a negative effect on plasmid copy number possibly as a result of their 'titration' of a plasmid encoded replication protein. The properties of plasmid replication proteins and direct nucleotide sequence repeats that are important for their opposing positive and negative roles in the regulation of the initiation of replication are described with particular emphasis on plasmid R6K of Escherichia coli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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