Autonomous Replication of the Conjugative Transposon Tn916
Author(s)Wright, Laurel; Grossman, Alan Davis
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Integrative and conjugative elements (ICEs), also known as conjugative transposons, are self-transferable elements that are widely distributed among bacterial phyla and are important drivers of horizontal gene transfer. Many ICEs carry genes that confer antibiotic resistances to their host cells and are involved in the dissemination of these resistance genes. ICEs reside in host chromosomes but under certain conditions can excise to form a plasmid that is typically the substrate for transfer. A few ICEs are known to undergo autonomous replication following activation. However, it is not clear if autonomous replication is a general property of many ICEs. We found that Tn916, the first conjugative transposon identified, replicates autonomously via a rolling-circle mechanism. Replication of Tn916 was dependent on the relaxase encoded by orf20 of Tn916. The origin of transfer of Tn916, oriT(916), also functioned as an origin of replication. Using immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry, we found that the relaxase (Orf20) and the two putative helicase processivity factors (Orf22 and Orf23) encoded by Tn916 likely interact in a complex and that the Tn916 relaxase contains a previously unidentified conserved helix-turn-helix domain in its N-terminal region that is required for relaxase function and replication. Lastly, we identified a functional single-strand origin of replication (sso) in Tn916 that we predict primes second-strand synthesis during rolling-circle replication. Together these results add to the emerging data that show that several ICEs replicate via a conserved, rolling-circle mechanism. IMPORTANCE Integrative and conjugative elements (ICEs) drive horizontal gene transfer and the spread of antibiotic resistances in bacteria. ICEs reside integrated in a host genome but can excise to create a plasmid that is the substrate for transfer to other cells. Here we show that Tn916, an ICE with broad host range, undergoes autonomous rolling-circle replication when in the plasmid form. We found that the origin of transfer functions as a double-stranded origin of replication and identified a single-stranded origin of replication. It was long thought that ICEs do not undergo autonomous replication. Our work adds to the evidence that ICEs replicate autonomously as part of their normal life cycle and indicates that diverse ICEs use the same replicative mechanism.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology
Journal of Bacteriology
American Society for Microbiology
Wright, Laurel D., and Alan D. Grossman. “Autonomous Replication of the Conjugative Transposon Tn 916.” Journal of Bacteriology, edited by I. B. Zhulin, vol. 198, no. 24, Dec. 2016, pp. 3355–66.
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