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Plasmid. 1998 Nov;40(3):190-202.

Conjugation in archaea: frequent occurrence of conjugative plasmids in Sulfolobus.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie, Martinsried, D 82152, Germany.


We describe five novel conjugative plasmids (CPs) and two subfamilies, each comprising several closely related variants of CPs isolated from colony-cloned strains of the extremely thermophilic, heterotrophic archaeon Sulfolobus islandicus, which were obtained by plating of samples from Icelandic solfataras after liquid enrichment. They are related to each other and to the previously described CP pNOB8 from a Japanese Sulfolobus strain in that they share essential functions and limited similarity of genomes as demonstrated by DNA cross-hybridization and sequences. All these plasmids thus form a family of highly efficient self-spreading elements directly transferred from donor into recipient cells. Conjugation is initiated by pair formation, followed by selective transfer of the plasmids into the recipient and expression of transfer functions. Some of these CPs exclude superconjugation of the transcipients with closely related CPs. The novel CPs are stable upon conjugative transfer, but vary upon growth of transcipients. The stability of the CPs is higher in their original hosts or in related S. islandicus strains, than in Sulfolobus solfataricus strain PH1 as recipient. The deletion variant pING3 has lost the ability to transfer itself but is still subject to being transferred by the transfer apparatus of its complete relative, pING6. The dissection of genes and functions has been initiated by characterizing this incomplete variant.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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