Frequency of horizontal gene transfer of a large catabolic plasmid (pJP4) in soil.

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
J W NeilsonN A Sinclair


Limited work has been done to assess the bioremediation potential of transfer of plasmid-borne degradative genes from introduced to indigenous organisms in the environment. Here we demonstrate the transfer by conjugation of the catabolic plasmid pJP4, using a model system with donor and recipient organisms. The donor organism was Alcaligenes eutrophus JMP134 and the recipient organism was Variovorax paradoxus isolated from a toxic waste site. Plasmid pJP4 contains genes for mercury resistance and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4-D) acid degradation. A transfer frequency of approximately 1/10(3) donor and recipient cells (parent cells) was observed on solid agar media, decreasing to 1/10(5) parent cells in sterile soil and finally 1/10(6) parent cells in 2,4-D-amended, nonsterile soil. Presumptive transconjugants were confirmed to be resistant to Hg, to be capable of degrading 2,4-D, and to contain a plasmid of size comparable to that of pJP4. In addition, we confirmed the transfer through PCR amplifications of the tfdB gene. Although transfer of pJP4 did occur at a high frequency in pure culture, the rate was significantly decreased by the introduction of abiotic (sterile soil) and biotic (nonsterile soil) stresses. An evaluation...Continue Reading


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