The broad host range IncP plasmids are of particular interest because of their ability to promote gene spread between diverse bacterial species. To facilitate study of these plasmids we have compiled the complete sequence of the IncPbeta plasmid R751. Comparison with the sequence of the IncPalpha plasmids confirms the conservation of the IncP backbone of replication, conjugative transfer and stable inheritance functions between the two branches of this family. As in the IncPalpha genome the DNA of this backbone appears to have been enriched for the GCCG/CGGC motifs characteristic of the genome of organisms with a high G+C content, such as P. aeruginosa, suggesting that IncPbeta plasmids have been subjected during their evolution to similar mutational and selective forces as IncPalpha plasmids and may have evolved in pseudomonad hosts. The IncP genome is consistently interrupted by insertion of phenotypic markers and/or transposable elements between oriV and trfA and between the tra and trb operons. The R751 genome reveals a family of repeated sequences in these regions which may form the basis of a hot spot for insertion of foreign DNA. Sequence analysis of the cryptic transposon Tn4321 revealed that it is not a member of the Tn21 family as we had proposed previously from an inspection of its ends. Rather it is a composite transposon defined by inverted repeats of a 1347 bp IS element belonging to a recently discovered family which is distributed throughout the prokaryotes. The central unique region of Tn4321 encodes two predicted proteins, one of which is a regulatory protein while the other is presumably responsible for an as yet unidentified phenotype. The most striking feature of the IncPalpha plasmids, the global regulation of replication and transfer by the KorA and KorB proteins encoded in the central control operon, is conserved between the two plasmids although there appear to be significant differences in the specificity of repressor-operator interactions. The importance of these global regulatory circuits is emphasised by the observation that the operator sequences for KorB are highly conserved even in contexts where the surrounding region, either a protein coding or intergenic sequence, has diverged considerably. There appears to be no equivalent of the parABCDE region which in the IncPalpha plasmids provides multimer resolution, lethality to plasmid-free segregants and active partitioning functions. However, we found that the continuous sector from co-ordinate 0 to 9100 bp, encoding the co-regulated klc and kle operons as well as the central control region, could confer a high degree of segregational stability on a low copy number test vector. Thus R751 appears to exhibit very clearly what was first revealed by study of the IncPalpha plasmids, namely a fully functional co-ordinately regulated set of replication, transfer and stable inheritance functions.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.