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Gene. 1996;173(1 Spec No):59-65.

Bacterial plasmid conjugation on semi-solid surfaces monitored with the green fluorescent protein (GFP) from Aequorea victoria as a marker.

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Department of Microbiology, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark.


Horizontal transfer of the TOL plasmid was examined in Pseudomonas putida (Pp) KT2442 micro-colonies on semi-solid agar surfaces. Horizontal gene transfer is usually studied in large populations where all information is based on average estimates of the transfer events in the entire population. We have used the green fluorescent protein (GFP) from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria as a plasmid marker, in combination with single-cell observations. This provided hitherto unknown details on the distribution of cells active in conjugation. In the present study, donor cells containing the gfp gene expressed from the bacteriophage T7 phi 10 promoter on the TOL plasmid, and recipient cells expressing the corresponding phage RNA polymerase allowed us to monitor the occurrence of ex-conjugants as green fluorescent cells upon illumination with blue light (470-490 nm). Further, the recipients were labeled with the luxAB genes to distinguish micro-colonies of donor cells from recipient cells. We conclude that conjugal plasmid transfer in Pp KT2442 cells on semi-solid surfaces occurs mainly during a short period of time after the initial contact of donors and recipients, indicating that spread of the TOL plasmid is limited in static, but viable cultures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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