Conjugative transfer of bacterial plasmids to recipient cells is often mediated by type IV secretion machinery. Experimental investigations into the minimal gene sets required for efficient conjugative transfer suggest that such gene sets are variable, depending on plasmids. We have been analyzing the conjugative transfer of Pseudomonas-derived and IncP-9 plasmids, NAH7 and pWW0, whose conjugation systems belong to the MPFT type. Our deletion analysis and synthetic biology analysis in this study showed that these plasmids require previously uncharacterized genes, mpfK (formerly orf34) and its functional homolog, kikA, respectively, for their efficient conjugative transfer. MpfK was localized in periplasm and had four cysteine residues whose intramolecular or intermolecular disulfide bond formation was suggested to be important for efficient conjugative transfer. The mpfK homologs were specifically carried by many MPFT-type plasmids, including non-IncP-9 plasmids, such as R388 and R751. Intriguingly, the mpfK homologs from the two non-IncP-9 plasmids were not required for conjugation of their plasmids, but were able to complement efficiently the transfer defect of the NAH7 mpfK mutant. Our results suggested the importance of the mpfK homologs for conjugative transfer of MPFT-type plasmids. IncP-9 plasmids are important mobile genetic elements for the degradation of various aromatic hydrocarbons. Elucidation of conjugative transfer of such plasmids is expected to greatly contribute to our understanding of its role in the bioremediation of polluted environments. The present study mainly focused on the conjugation system of NAH7, a well-studied and naphthalene-catabolic IncP-9 plasmid. Our analysis showed that the NAH7 conjugation system uniquely requires, in addition to the conserved components of the type IV secretion system (T4SS), a previously uncharacterized periplasmic protein, MpfK, for successful conjugation. Our findings collectively revealed a unique type of T4SS-associated conjugation system in the IncP-9 plasmids.
- Conjugative transfer
- Mating-pair formation