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Gene. 1997 Jun 11;192(1):179-90.

Uptake and processing of DNA by Acinetobacter calcoaceticus--a review.

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CHU Rangueil, Bactériologie DRRE 950897, Univ. Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France.


In natural transformation, DNA in the form of macromolecular fragments can be translocated across the cell envelope of prokaryotic microorganisms. During the past two decades, several, largely mutually contradictory, hypotheses have been forwarded to explain the molecular mechanism and bioenergetics of this translocation process. Other biomacromolecules are translocated across the bacterial cell envelope as well, such as polysaccharides and proteins, the latter for instance in the process of the assembly of type-IV pili. This brings up the question whether or not common components are involved. Here, we review analyses of DNA translocation in Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, a Gram-negative eubacterium that is able to migrate through twitching motility, and also shows a high frequency of natural transformation. DNA uptake in this organism is an energy-dependent process. Upon entry into the cells, the DNA fragments are integrated into the resident chromosome when a sufficiently large region of mutual homology is available (200 to 400 bp). However, this process is rather inefficient, and on the average 500 bp of each incoming fragment is degraded through exonuclease activity. Upon covalent attachment of a bulky protein molecule to the transforming DNA, the DNA-translocation machinery becomes blocked in further translocation activity. Since A. calcoaceticus is not well suited for transposon mutagenesis, a random mutagenesis procedure has been developed, based on the ligation of an antibiotic-resistance marker to random fragments of chromosomal DNA. This method was used to generate several mutants impaired in the natural transformation process. Three of these have been characterized in detail. No components, common to the translocation of macromolecules through the cell envelope of Acinetobacter, have been detected in this screen.

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