Indexed on: 16 Jun '06Published on: 16 Jun '06Published in: Plasmid
Conjugation is a major contributor to lateral gene transfer in bacteria, and pheromone-inducible conjugation systems in Enterococcus faecalis play an important role in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance and virulence in enterococci and related bacteria. We have genetically dissected the determinants of DNA processing of the enterococcal conjugative plasmid pCF10. Insertional inactivation of a predicted relaxase gene pcfG, via insertion of a splicing-deficient group II intron, severely reduced pCF10 transfer. Restoration of intron splicing ability by genetic complementation restored conjugation. The pCF10 origin of transfer (oriT) was localized to a 40-nucleotide sequence within a non-coding region with sequence similarity to origins of transfer of several other plasmids in gram positive bacteria. Deletion of the oriT reduced pCF10 transfer by more than five orders of magnitude without affecting pCF10-dependent mobilization of co-resident oriT-containing plasmids. Although the host range for pCF10 replication is limited to enterococci, we found that the pCF10 conjugation system promotes mobilization of oriT-containing plasmids to multiple bacterial genera. Therefore, this transfer system may have applications for gene delivery to a variety of poorly-transformed bacteria.