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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993 May;59(5):1662-7.

Natural Transformation of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus by Plasmid DNA Adsorbed on Sand and Groundwater Aquifer Material.

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Genetik, Fachbereich Biologie, Universit├Ąt Oldenburg, D-2900 Oldenburg, Germany.


It is known that plasmid DNA and linear duplex DNA molecules adsorb to chemically purified mineral grains of sand and to particles of several clay fractions. It seemed desirable to examine whether plasmid DNA would also adsorb to nonpurified mineral materials taken from the environment and, particularly, whether adsorbed plasmid DNA would be available for natural transformation of bacteria. Therefore, microcosms consisting of chemically pure sea sand plus buffered CaCl(2) solution were compared with microcosms consisting of material sampled directly from a groundwater aquifer (GWA) plus groundwater (GW) with respect to the natural transformation of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus by mineral-associated DNA. The GWA minerals were mostly sand with inorganic precipitates and organic material plus minor quantities of silt and clay (illite and kaolinite). The amount of plasmid DNA which adsorbed to GWA (in GW) was about 80% of the amount which adsorbed to purified sand (in buffered CaCl(2) solution). Plasmid DNA adsorbed on sand transformed A. calcoaceticus significantly less efficiently than did plasmid DNA in solution. In contrast, the transformation by sand-adsorbed chromosomal DNA was as high as that by DNA in solution. In GWA/GW microcosms, the efficiency of transformation by chromosomal DNA was similar to that in sand microcosms, whereas plasmid transformation was not detectable. However, plasmid transformants were found at a low frequency when GWA was loaded with both chromosomal and plasmid DNA. Reasons for the low transformation efficiency of plasmid DNA adsorbed to mineral surfaces are discussed. Control experiments showed that the amounts of plasmid and chromosomal DNA desorbing from sand during incubation with a cell-free filtrate of a competent cell suspension did not greatly contribute to transformation in sand microcosms, suggesting that transformation occurred by direct uptake of DNA from the mineral surfaces. Taken together, the observations suggest that plasmid DNA and chromosomal DNA fragments which are adsorbed on mineral surfaces in a sedimentary or soil habitat may be available (although with different efficiencies for the two DNA species) for transformation of a naturally competent gram-negative soil bacterium.


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