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Gene escape model: transfer of heavy metal resistance genes from Escherichia coli to Alcaligenes eutrophus on agar plates and in soil samples.

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  • Research Article


Conjugal transfer from Escherichia coli to Alcaligenes eutrophus of the A. eutrophus genes coding for plasmid-borne resistance to cadmium, cobalt, and zinc (czc genes) was investigated on agar plates and in soil samples. This czc fragment is not expressed in the donor strain, E. coli, but it is expressed in the recipient strain, A. eutrophus. Hence, expression of heavy metal resistance by cells plated on a medium containing heavy metals represents escape of the czc genes. The two plasmids into which this DNA fragment has been cloned previously and which were used in these experiments are the nonconjugative, mobilizable plasmid pDN705 and the nonconjugative, nonmobilizable plasmid pMOL149. In plate matings at 28 to 30 degrees C, the direct mobilization of pDN705 occurred at a frequency of 2.4 x 10(-2) per recipient, and the mobilization of the same plasmid by means of the IncP1 conjugative plasmids RP4 or pULB113 (present either in a third cell [triparental cross] or in the recipient strain itself [retromobilization]) occurred at average frequencies of 8 x 10(-4) and 2 x 10(-5) per recipient, respectively. The czc genes cloned into the Tra- Mob- plasmid pMOL149 were transferred at a frequency of 10(-7) to 10(-8) and only by means of plasmid pULB113. The direct mobilization of pDN705 was further investigated in sandy, sandy-loam, and clay soils. In sterile soils, transfer frequencies at 20 degrees C were highest in the sandy-loam soil (10(-5) per recipient) and were enhanced in all soils by the addition of easily metabolizable nutrients.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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