Selective Pressures to Maintain Attachment Site Specificity of Integrative and Conjugative Elements
Author(s)Grossman, Alan D.; Menard, Kayla Lynne
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Integrative and conjugative elements (ICEs) are widespread mobile genetic elements that are usually found integrated in bacterial chromosomes. They are important agents of evolution and contribute to the acquisition of new traits, including antibiotic resistances. ICEs can excise from the chromosome and transfer to recipients by conjugation. Many ICEs are site-specific in that they integrate preferentially into a primary attachment site in the bacterial genome. Site-specific ICEs can also integrate into secondary locations, particularly if the primary site is absent. However, little is known about the consequences of integration of ICEs into alternative attachment sites or what drives the apparent maintenance and prevalence of the many ICEs that use a single attachment site. Using ICEBs1, a site-specific ICE from Bacillus subtilis that integrates into a tRNA gene, we found that integration into secondary sites was detrimental to both ICEBs1 and the host cell. Excision of ICEBs1 from secondary sites was impaired either partially or completely, limiting the spread of ICEBs1. Furthermore, induction of ICEBs1 gene expression caused a substantial drop in proliferation and cell viability within three hours. This drop was dependent on rolling circle replication of ICEBs1 that was unable to excise from the chromosome. Together, these detrimental effects provide selective pressure against the survival and dissemination of ICEs that have integrated into alternative sites and may explain the maintenance of site-specific integration for many ICEs.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biology
Public Library of Science
Menard, Kayla L., and Alan D. Grossman. “Selective Pressures to Maintain Attachment Site Specificity of Integrative and Conjugative Elements.” Edited by Diarmaid Hughes. PLoS Genetics 9, no. 7 (July 18, 2013): e1003623.
Final published version