Background: Integrative Conjugative Elements (ICEs) are important factors in the plasticity of microbial genomes. An element related to the ICE Tn4371 was discovered during a bioinformatic search of the Ralstonia pickettii 12J genome. This element was analysed and further searches carried out for additional elements.A PCR method was designed to detect and characterise new elements of this type based on this scaffold and a culture collection of fifty-eight Ralstonia pickettii and Ralstonia insidiosa strains were analysed for the presence of the element.
Results: Comparative sequence analysis of bacterial genomes has revealed the presence of a number of uncharacterised Tn4371-like ICEs in the genomes of several beta and gamma- Proteobacteria. These elements vary in size, GC content, putative function and have a mosaic-like structure of plasmid- and phage-like sequences which is typical of Tn4371-like ICEs. These elements were found after a through search of the GenBank database. The elements, which are found in Ralstonia, Delftia, Acidovorax, Bordetella, Comamonas, Acidovorax, Congregibacter, Shewanella, Pseudomonas Stenotrophomonas, Thioalkalivibrio sp. HL-EbGR7, Polaromonas, Burkholderia and Diaphorobacter sp. share a common scaffold. A PCR method was designed (based on the Tn4371- like element detected in the Ralstonia pickettii 12J genome) to detect and characterise new elements of this type.
Conclusion: All elements found in this study possess a common scaffold of core genes but contain different accessory genes. A new uniform nomenclature is suggested for ICEs of the Tn4371 family. Two novel Tn4371-like ICE were discovered and characterised, using the novel PCR method described in two different isolates of Ralstonia pickettii from laboratory purified water.