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Prophage-dependent plasmid integration in Staphylococcus aureus.

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  • Research Article


A study has been done of reversion to thermostability of thermosensitive, replication-defective (TSR) mutant penicillinase plasmids. All three of the expected classes of reversions were encountered: back mutation, suppression, and integration. The latter class was examined in some detail and it was found that the presence of the phi 11 phophage enhance the frequency of reversion by integration some 103-fold. Prophage-dependent integration resulted in inactivation of plasmid-linked arsenate and arsenite resistance; these revertant strains gave rise to high frequency tranducing lysates where the plasmid was restored upon transduction to its original TSR state including recovery of these resistances. The integrated plasmid-prophage complexes were stable at high temperatures (43 C) but slow growing and unstable at low (32 C); loss of either plasmid or prophage restored normal growth and stability. Sometimes restoration of the plasmid to its autonomous TSR state was observed and molecular studies showed that in most cases the plasmid was essentially the same size as before integration. In some cases an excision complex was recovered that was more than twice the size of the plasmid and could have been a plasmid-phage co-integrate. Integration also took place in the absence of the ł 11 prophage. These integrations retained all plasmid-linked resistances, were stable at all temperatures, and gave rise to low frequency transducing lysates in which the integrated state was retained upon transduction. On the basis of these results it is suggested that the prophage promotes integration at or near its attachment site.

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