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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Aug;25(3):495-507.

TraM of plasmid R1 controls transfer gene expression as an integrated control element in a complex regulatory network.

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Institut für Mikrobiologie, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria.


Site-directed mutagenesis was used to investigate the functions of the traM gene in plasmid R1-mediated bacterial conjugation. Three mutant alleles, a null mutation, a sense mutation and a stop mutation, were recombined back into the R1-16 plasmid, a transfer-derepressed (finO-) variant of plasmid R1. The frequency of conjugative transfer of the traM null mutant derivative of R1-16 was 10(7)-fold lower than that of the isogenic parent plasmid, showing the absolute requirement for this gene in conjugative transfer of plasmid R1. Measurements of the abundance of plasmid specified traJ, traA and traM mRNAs, TraM protein levels, and complementation studies indicated that the traM gene of plasmid R1 has at least two functions in conjugation: (i) positive control of transfer gene expression; and (ii) a function in a process distinct from gene expression. Since expression of the negatively autoregulated traM gene is itself affected positively by the expression of the transfer operon genes, this gene constitutes a decisive element within a regulatory circuit that co-ordinates expression of the genes necessary for horizontal DNA transfer. Based on our studies, we present a novel model for the regulation of the transfer genes of plasmid R1 that might also be applicable to other IncF plasmids.

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