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J Bacteriol. 1995 Sep;177(17):4992-9.

Location and characteristics of the transfer region of a Bacteroides conjugative transposon and regulation of transfer genes.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801, USA.


Many Bacteroides clinical isolates contain large conjugative transposons, which excise from the genome of a donor and transfer themselves to a recipient by a process that requires cell-to-cell contact. It has been suggested that the transfer intermediate of the conjugative transposons is a covalently closed circle, which is transferred by the same type of rolling circle mechanism used by conjugative plasmids, but the transfer origin of a conjugative transposon has not previously been localized and characterized. We have now identified the transfer origin (oriT) region of one of the Bacteroides conjugative transposons, TcrEmr DOT, and have shown that it is located near the middle of the conjugative transposon. We have also identified a 16-kbp region of the conjugal transposon which is necessary and sufficient for conjugal transfer of the element and which is located near the oriT. This same region proved to be sufficient for mobilization of coresident plasmids and unlinked integrated elements as well as for self-transfer, indicating that all of these activities are mediated by the same transfer system. Previously, we had reported that disruption of a gene, rteC, abolished self-transfer of the element. rteC is one of a set of rte genes that appears to mediate tetracycline induction of transfer activities of the conjugative transposons. On the basis of these and other data, we had proposed that RteC activated expression of transfer genes. We have now found, however, that when the transfer region of TcrEmr DOT was cloned as a plasmid that did not contain rteC and the plasmid (pLYL72) was tested for transfer out of a Bacteroides strain that did not have a copy of rteC in the chromosome, the plasmid was self-transmissible without tetracycline induction. This and other findings suggest that RteC is not an activator transfer genes but is stimulating transfer in some other way.

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