• A soil bacterial catabolic pathway on the move: Transfer of nicotine catabolic genes between Arthrobacter genus megaplasmids and invasion by mobile elements

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    • Keywords


      Arthrobacter; DNA transposable elements; horizontal gene transfer; nicotine metabolism; plasmids

    • Abstract


      The 165,137 bp plasmid pAO1 of Paenarthrobacter nicotinovorans carries the genes of a nicotine catabolicpathway. The genes are organized into several gene modules responsible for the catabolism of L- and D-nicotineto nicotine blue, a-ketoglutarate and succinate. Various modules of these genes have been shown to be presentin gram-positive (Gram+) soil bacteria. The presence of the identical pAO1 nic-genes on the 288,370 bpplasmid pZXY21 of Arthrobacter sp. ZXY2 (96% to 100% at the nucleotide level) permitted the identificationof the limits of this DNA fragment. At the 5' end of the nic-genes are located the ORFs of two predictedintegrases of the tyrosine recombinase family with conserved R, H, R and Y catalytic residues and that of asmall transposase with a predicted leucine zipper motive. They are related to Tn554A, Tn554B and Tn554C ofStaphylococcus aureus and suggest that the entire nic-genes DNA fragment represents a large catabolictransposon. Surprisingly the nic-genes on pZXY21 were found to be interspersed by mobile elements encodingtransposases of various IS families. Insertion of these IS elements disrupts nicotine degradation and divide thenic-genes DNA into potentially new transposons. This finding may illustrate how nicotine catabolic genes canbe mobilized and spread by horizontal gene transfer to other soil bacteria.

    • Author Affiliations



      1. Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
      2. Biochemistry Laboratory, Biology Department, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Iasi, Romania
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