, Volume 157, Issue 4, pp 355-360

Plasmid transformation of naturally competent Acinetobacter calcoaceticus in non-sterile soil extract and groundwater

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Abstract

The natural transformation of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus BD413 (trp E27) was characterized with respect to features that might be important for a possible gene transfer by extracellular DNA in natural environments. Transformation of competent cells with chromosomal DNA (marker trp +) occurred in aqueous solutions of single divalent cations. Uptake of DNA into the DNase I-resistant state but not the binding of DNA to cells was strongly stimulated by divalent cations. An increase of transformation of nearly 3 orders of magnitude was obtained as a response to the presence of 0.25 mM Ca2+. With CaCl2 solutions the transformation frequencies approached the highest values obtained under standard broth conditions, followed by MnCl2 and MgCl2. It is concluded that transformation requires divalent cations. DNA competition experiments showed that A. calcoaceticus does not discriminate between homologous and heterologous DNA. Furthermore, circular plasmid DNA competed with chromosomal DNA fragments and vice versa. The equally efficient transformation with plasmid pKT210 isolated from A. calcoaceticus or Escherichia coli indicated absence of DNA restriction in transformation. High efficiency plasmid transformation was obtained in samples of non-sterile natural groundwater and in non-sterile extracts of fresh and air-dried soil. Heat-treatment (10 min, 80°C) of the non-sterile liquid samples increased transformation only in the dried soil extract, probably by inactivation of DNases. The results presented suggest that competent cells of A. calcoaceticus can take up free high molecular weight DNA including plasmids of any source in natural environments such as soil, sediment or groundwater.