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Cell. 1984 Apr;36(4):1097-103.

Multimerization of high copy number plasmids causes instability: CoIE1 encodes a determinant essential for plasmid monomerization and stability.


Although the natural multicopy plasmid CoIE1 is maintained stably under most growth conditions, plasmid cloning vectors related to it are relatively unstable, being lost at frequencies of 10(-2)-10(-5) per cell per generation. Evidence suggests that CoIE1 and related plasmids are partitioned randomly at cell division and that plasmid stability is correlated inversely with plasmid multimerization; factors or conditions that reduce multimerization increase stability. Cells containing plasmid multimers segregate plasmid-free cells because the multimers are maintained at lower copy numbers than monomers, as predicted by origin-counting models for copy number control. CoIE1 is stable because it encodes a determinant, cer, that is necessary for recA-, recF-, and recE-independent recombination events that efficiently convert any multimers to monomers. We have localized monomerizing and stability determinants of CoIE1 to within a 0.38 kb region that, when cloned into plasmid vectors, greatly increases their stability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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