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Microbiology. 1997 Jul;143 ( Pt 7):2155-65.

bctA: a novel pBF4 gene necessary for conjugal transfer in Bacteroides spp.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23298-0678, USA.


pBF4 is a 41 kb conjugative R-plasmid that confers MLS (macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B) resistance in Bacteroides spp. To identify pBF4 genes governing conjugation, recombinational mutagenesis using a suicide vector carrying fragments of the pBF4 plasmid was employed. One of the six independent insertion mutants of pBF4 isolated using this method was found to be conjugation-deficient. Nucleotide sequence analysis around the insertion site on this plasmid revealed a 2.8 kb ORF that encoded a putative 110 kDa protein. A corresponding protein was observed when a 12 kb DNA fragment containing this ORF was used to program an in vitro transcription-translation system. Both the ORF and the predicted protein were novel when compared to available database sequences. This gene was designated bctA (Bacteroides conjugal transfer). Polyclonal rabbit antibodies that recognized a sub-sequence polypeptide of BctA reacted with a 55 kDa protein in Western blot analysis using a total protein extract from Bacteroides fragilis containing pBF4. The protein was not present in a B. fragilis strain containing the conjugation-deficient insertion mutant of pBF4. The 55 kDa protein was associated with the membrane fraction of B. fragilis. Although the cellular and biochemical basis of bctA-promoted conjugation remains unknown, this work demonstrates the existence of a heretofore unrecognized gene in bacterial conjugation, and the mutagenesis system used provides the means to isolate and characterize other genes involved in conjugal transfer in Bacteroides spp.

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