Essential components of the Ti plasmid trb system, a type IV macromolecular transporter

Pei Li Li, Ingyu Hwang, Heather Miyagi, Heather True, Stephen K. Farrand

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41 Scopus citations


The trb operon from pTiC58 is one of three loci that are required for conjugal transfer of this Ti plasmid. The operon, which probably codes for the mating bridge responsible for pair formation and DNA transfer, contains 12 genes, 11 of which are related to genes from other members of the type IV secretion system family. The 12th gene, traI, codes for production of Agrobacterium autoinducer (AAI). Insertion mutations were constructed in each of the 12 genes, contained on a full-length clone of the trb region, using antibiotic resistance cassettes or a newly constructed transposon. This transposon, called mini-Tn5Ptrb, was designed to express genes downstream of the insertion site from a promoter regulated by TraR and AAI. Each mutation could trans complement downstream Tn3HoHo1 insertions in the trb operon of full-sized Ti plasmids. When marker-exchanged into the transfer-constitutive Ti plasmid pTiC58ΔaccR mutations in trbB, -C, -D, -E, -L, -F, -G, and -H abolished conjugal transfer from strain UIA5, which lacks the 450-kb catabolic plasmid pAtC58. However, these mutants retained residual conjugal transfer activity when tested in strain NT1, which contains this large plasmid. The trbJ mutant failed to transfer at a detectable frequency from either strain, while the trbI mutant transferred at very low but detectable levels from both donors. Only the trbK mutant was unaffected in conjugal transfer from either donor. Transfer of each of the marker-exchange mutants was restored by a clone expressing only the wild-type allele of the corresponding mutant trb gene. An insertion mutation in traI abolished the production of AAI and also conjugal transfer. This defect was restored by culturing the mutant donor in the presence of AAI. We conclude that all of the trb genes except trbI and trbK are essential for conjugal transfer of pTiC58. We also conclude that mutations in any one of the trb genes except traI and trbJ can be complemented by functions coded for by pAtC58.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5033-5041
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 1999


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