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Plasmid. 1993 Nov;30(3):234-50.

Characterization of the left 4 kb of conjugative transposon Tn916: determinants involved in excision.

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Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, School of Dentistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.


The rate-limiting step in movement of the conjugative transposon Tn916, originally identified in Enterococcus faecalis, is believed to be an excision event that generates a non-replicative circular intermediate. When present on a plasmid vector in Escherichia coli, Tn916 generally excises at a high frequency. It was reported previously that insertion of Tn5 in a region near the left end of Tn916 eliminated the ability to excise; and the mutation could be complemented in trans. In this communication the nucleotide sequence of 4 kb of Tn916 DNA connecting the recently sequenced tet(M) determinant (Su et al., 1992; Burdett, 1990) with the left end of the transposon. Ten open reading frames (ORFs) were deduced, two of which (ORF3 and ORF4) were encoded in-frame within a third (ORF2). Mutants with Tn5 insertions in the ORF1 or ORF2 (ORF3 and ORF4) were defective in excision, but could be complemented in vivo by a co-resident plasmid containing the ORF1 or ORF2 determinant, respectively. The data support the view that both ORF1 and ORF2 are essential for excision. ORF1 and ORF2 are essentially identical to determinants designated xis-Tn and int-Tn, respectively, in the closely related Tn1545. A Tn5 insertion in ORF5 eliminated conjugative transfer between E. faecalis strains. Functions for the remaining ORFs (ORF6 through ORF10) remain unknown; however, nucleotide sequences within ORF6 and ORF9 had significant homology with sequence downstream of other tet(M) determinants.

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