A LuxR-type regulator from Agrobacterium tumefaciens elevates Ti plasmid copy number by activating transcription of plasmid replication genes

Mol Microbiol. 2003 May;48(4):1059-73. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03488.x.


TraR, a LuxR-type quorum-sensing transcription factor in Agrobacterium tumefaciens, activates genes required for conjugal transfer of the Ti plasmid and also enhances the copy number of a nopaline-type Ti plasmid. Here, we show that TraR increases the copy number of an octopine-type Ti plasmid up to eightfold and that TraR activates transcription of the repABC operon up to 25-fold. The ability of TraR to increase copy number was strictly dependent on several TraR-activated promoters of this operon, indicating that TraR affects copy number solely at the level of transcription. Promoter resections and mRNA transcript analysis revealed the presence of three TraR-dependent promoters. Two TraR-dependent transcription start sites are located 45.5 and 65.5 nucleotides downstream of a site called tra box II, whereas the third start site lies 42.5 nucleotides downstream of a site called tra box III. Purified TraR bound to both tra boxes with comparable affinities, causing moderate DNA bending. TraR bound and bent these two sites independently rather than synergistically. Alteration of tra box III to match the consensus sequence dramatically increased TraR-dependent expression of repABC and plasmid copy number. TraR-dependent elevation of Ti plasmid copy number caused a three- to fourfold increase in plant tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Base Sequence
  • Conjugation, Genetic / genetics*
  • DNA Helicases*
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • DNA, Intergenic / analysis
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genes, Regulator / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Trans-Activators*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Intergenic
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Proteins
  • RepB protein, Bacteria
  • RepC protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • TraR protein, Agrobacterium tumefaciens
  • Trans-Activators
  • replication initiator protein
  • DNA Helicases