Plasmid evolution by acquisition of mobile gene cassettes: plasmid pIE723 contains the aadB gene cassette precisely inserted at a secondary site in the incQ plasmid RSF1010

Mol Microbiol. 1995 Jan;15(1):179-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1995.tb02232.x.


Gene cassettes are mobile DNA elements which contain a specific recombination site, a 59-base element, recognized by the site-specific recombination system of integrons. Gene cassettes are normally found inserted at a unique site in an integron, downstream of a promoter which directs transcription of the cassette-associated genes. However, insertion of a gene cassette into a secondary site in a plasmid which does not contain an integron is also formally possible. Sequence analysis of the aadB gene in pIE723, a plasmid closely related to the IncQ plasmid RSF1010, revealed the presence of the complete aadB cassette inserted at a secondary site downstream of a known RSF1010 promoter. The site of insertion of the aadB cassette in RSF1010 conformed to the consensus for secondary sites recognized by the integron integrase (Int), and it is likely that the cassette was inserted via a single Int-mediated recombination event between the 59-base element of a free, circular aadB cassette and a secondary site in RSF1010. The cassette-associated recombination site was inactivated by the insertion, and Int-mediated excision of the aadB cassette from this non-specific location was not detectable, indicating that the cassette is stably inserted. The movement of gene cassettes to secondary sites is likely to play an important role in the acquisition of new genes by bacterial and plasmid genomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Integrases
  • Integrins
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / chemistry
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics*
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Integrins
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases
  • Integrases
  • Nucleotidyltransferases
  • gentamicin 2''-nucleotidyltransferase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U14415