, Volume 261, Issue 4-5, pp 851-861

Analysis of the replication region of the cryptic plasmid pHE1 from the moderate halophileHalomonas elongata

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The basic replicon of the narrow-host-range plasmid pHE1 from the moderately halophilic bacterium Halomonas elongata ATCC 33174 has been identified and characterized. The replicon consists of a 1.7-kb DNA fragment, which contains the genetic information required for autonomous replication and stable maintenance. Analysis of its sequence revealed the presence of two ORFs which seem to form one transcription unit. ORF1 encodes a replication initiator protein (RepA), which has a high degree of homology to the theta-replicase (RepA) protein of ColE2 plasmid and to the RepA proteins of a family of replicons from gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, also related to ColE2. The product encoded by ORF2 showed a certain similarity to the RepB proteins of the same family of replicons and perhaps represents the pHE1 RepB function. Deletion analysis suggests that the pHE1 origin of replication (ori) is located in an 800-bp region upstream of repA. A third putative gene, incA, was found on the complementary strand to the leader region of the repA mRNA. This, together with the presence in the 5′ untranslated region of the repA mRNA of inverted repeats that could form stable stem-loop structures, suggests that the incA gene encodes a small antisense RNA. A possible control mechanism for pHE1 replication is proposed, involving an RNA molecule which sequesters the translational initiation region of the replication protein RepA. The basic replicon characterized here shows very interesting properties that should allow it to be used in the construction of cloning and expression vectors for moderate halophiles.

Received: 21 December 1998 / Accepted: 5 March 1999