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Transsexuality in the rhizosphere: quorum sensing reversibly converts Agrobacterium tumefaciens from phenotypically female to male.

Department of Microbiology, 360A Wing Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
Journal of bacteriology (Impact Factor: 2.69). 04/2009; 191(10):3375-83. DOI: 10.1128/JB.01608-08
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Conjugative plasmids generally encode proteins that block the conjugative entry of identical or similar plasmids into the host cell, a phenomenon known as entry exclusion. Here, we demonstrate that two Ti plasmids of Agrobacterium tumefaciens encode robust entry exclusion functions. Two proteins, TrbJ and TrbK, can each mediate entry exclusion and act synergistically. The trbJ and trbK genes are included within the trb operon, which is tightly regulated by the quorum-sensing regulator TraR and the cognate acylhomoserine lactone. In the absence of quorum-sensing signals, these proteins are not significantly expressed, and cells lacking TrbJ and TrbK are efficient Ti plasmid recipients. In the presence of these signals, these strains block the entry of Ti plasmids and instead become efficient conjugal donors.

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