Regulation of transfer genes of promiscuous IncP alpha plasmid RK2: repression of Tra1 region transcription both by relaxosome proteins and by the Tra2 regulator TrbA

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  • University of Birmingham


The Tra1 region of broad host range IncP alpha plasmid RK2 encodes proteins essential for its promiscuous conjugative transfer and includes oriT, the site at which nicking occurs to initiate transfer replication. Unregulated expression of the Tra1 region genes would be likely to place a major burden on the host. To investigate the control of these genes the three transcriptional promoters from this region were cloned by PCR and inserted into xylE promoter probe vectors. The strength of traJp and traKp was estimated to be six to eightfold less than the strong trfA promoter which is required for expression of genes for vegetative replication of RK2. The traG promoter was about one-tenth the strength of the other two. These promoters are not repressed by products of the central control operon of RK2. However, traJp and traKp, which are arranged as back to back divergent promoters in the oriT region, are repressed by TraK which constitutes part of the relaxosome necessary for nicking at oriT. A second relaxosome protein, TraJ, represses traJp. traGp is not repressed by any relaxosome proteins. All three promoters are repressed by TrbA, which is encoded at the start of the trb operon containing the rest of the transfer genes (the Tra2 region). These circuits provide: (i) an autoregulatory way of ensuring production of enough relaxosome proteins without overburdening the host; and (ii) a means of coordinating expression of both blocks of transfer genes.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2981-90
Number of pages10
Volume140 ( Pt 11)
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1994


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins/genetics, Bacterial Proteins, Base Sequence, Conjugation, Genetic, DNA-Binding Proteins/genetics, Escherichia coli/genetics, Escherichia coli Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial, Genes, Bacterial/genetics, Models, Genetic, Molecular Sequence Data, Nuclear Proteins/genetics, Nucleoproteins/genetics, Operon/genetics, Periplasmic Proteins, Promoter Regions, Genetic/genetics, R Factors/genetics, RNA, Messenger/analysis, Repressor Proteins/genetics, Transcription, Genetic