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Unexpected effect of a Bacteroides conjugative transposon, CTnDOT, on chromosomal gene expression in its bacterial host

Molecular Microbiology
Wiley Blackwell (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05756.x
  • Research Articles
  • Design


Foreign DNA elements such as plasmids and conjugative transposons are constantly entering new bacterial hosts. A possible outcome of such events that has not been considered previously is that regulatory genes carried on some of them might affect the expression of chromosomal genes of the new host. To assess this possibility, we investigated the effect of the Bacteroides conjugative transposon CTnDOT on expression of chromosomal genes in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron 5482 (BT4001). Most of the upregulated genes were genes of unknown function, but a number of them were associated with a region of the chromosome that contained a putative conjugative transposon, which had been tentatively designated as CTn4-bt. Upregulation of CTn4-bt genes and other chromosomal genes affected by CTnDOT was controlled by two regulatory genes on CTnDOT, rteA and rteB, which encode a two-component regulatory system. Transfer of CTn4-bt was also mediated by rteA and rteB. Three other putative CTns, CTn1-bt, CTn2-bt and CTn3-bt, were mobilized by CTnERL, a CTn closely related to CTnDOT, but genes from CTnERL other than rteA and rteB were also required. Unexpectedly, homologous recombination was required for CTn1-bt, CTn2-bt, CTn3-bt and CTn4-bt to integrate in the recipient. Our results show that regulatory genes on an incoming mobile element can have multiple effects on its new host, including the activation of previously non-transmissible elements.

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