Genetic characterization of the stabilizing functions of a region of broad-host-range plasmid RK2

R. C. Roberts, R. Burioni, D. R. Helinksi

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One of the regions responsible for the stable inheritance of the broad-host-range plasmid RK2 is contained within the PstI C fragment, located from coordinates 30.8 to 37.0 kb (P.N. Saurugger, O. Hrabak, H. Schwab, and R.M. Lafferty, J. Biotechnol. 4:333-343, 1986). Genetic analysis of this 6.2-kb region demonstrated that no function was present that stabilized by selectively killing plasmid-free segregants. The sequence from 36.0 to 37.0 kb mediated a twofold increase in plasmid copy number, but this region was not required for stabilization activity. The PstI C fragment was shown to encode a multimer resolution system from 33.1 ± 35.3 kb. The resolution cis-acting site was mapped to 140 bp, sequenced, and observed to contain two directly repeated sequences of 6 and 7 bases and two perfect inverted repeats of 6 and 8 bases. The trans-acting factor(s) was mapped and functionally determined to encode a resolvase capable of catalyzing recombination at high frequency between cis-acting sites in either direct or inverted orientation. Multimer resolution alone did not acocunt for complete plasmid stabilization by the PstI C fragment, since removal of regions adjacent to the 35.3-kb border of the minimal mrs locus dramatically reduced stabilization. The minimal region required for complete stabilization, from 32.8 to 35.9 kb, was capable of fully stabilizing plasmids independently of the replicon or the recA proficiency of the host. Stabilization activity was also fully expressed in several diverse gram-negative bacteria, whereas the F plasmid par locus functioned only in Escherichia coli. On the basis of these observations, we conclude that under the growth conditions used, the mimimal stabilization locus encodes both an mrs activity and a stabilization activity that has the properties of a par locus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6204-6216
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Immunology


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