Conjugative DNA metabolism in Gram-negative bacteria

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2010 Jan;34(1):18-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2009.00195.x.


Bacterial conjugation in Gram-negative bacteria is triggered by a signal that connects the relaxosome to the coupling protein (T4CP) and transferosome, a type IV secretion system. The relaxosome, a nucleoprotein complex formed at the origin of transfer (oriT), consists of a relaxase, directed to the nic site by auxiliary DNA-binding proteins. The nic site undergoes cleavage and religation during vegetative growth, but this is converted to a cleavage and unwinding reaction when a competent mating pair has formed. Here, we review the biochemistry of relaxosomes and ponder some of the remaining questions about the nature of the signal that begins the process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Conjugation, Genetic / physiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / genetics*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*


  • DNA, Bacterial