Molecular and General Genetics MGG

, Volume 245, Issue 6, pp 704–715 | Cite as

An essential virulence protein of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, VirB4, requires an intact mononucleotide binding domain to function in transfer of T-DNA

  • Karla Jean Fullner
  • Kathryn M. Stephens
  • Eugene W. Nester
Original Paper


The 11 gene products of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens virB operon, together with the VirD4 protein, are proposed to form a membrane complex which mediates the transfer of T-DNA to plant cells. This study examined one putative component of that complex, VirB4. A deletion of the virB4 gene on the Ti plasmid pTiA6NC was constructed by replacing the virB4 gene with the kanamycin resistance-conferring nptII gene. The virB4 gene was found to be necessary for virulence on plants and for the transfer of IncQ plasmids to recipient cells of A. tumefaciens. Genetic complementation of the deletion strain by the virB4 gene under control of the virB promoter confirmed that the deletion was nonpolar on downstream virB genes. Genetic complementation was also achieved with the virB4 gene placed under control of the lac promoter, even though synthesis of the VirB4 protein from this promoter is far below wild-type levels. Having shown a role for the VirB4 protein in DNA transfer, lysine-439, found within the conserved mononucleotide binding domain of VirB4, was changed to a glutamic acid, methionine, or arginine by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. virB4 genes bearing these mutations were unable to complement the virB4 deletion for either virulence or for IncQ transfer, showing that an intact mononucleotide binding site is necessary for the function of VirB4 in DNA transfer. The necessity of the VirB4 protein with an intact mononucleotide binding site for extracellular complementation of virE2 mutants was also shown. In merodiploid studies, lysine-439 mutations present in trans decreased IncQ plasmid transfer frequencies, suggesting that VirB4 functions within a complex to facilitate DNA transfer.

Key words

Agrobacterium tumefaciens T-DNA transfer VirB4 IncQ plasmid conjugation Transfer complexes 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karla Jean Fullner
    • 1
  • Kathryn M. Stephens
    • 1
  • Eugene W. Nester
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology, SC-42University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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