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Mechanisms of Theta Plasmid Replication in Enterobacteria and Implications for Adaptation to Its Host.

  • Author(s): Kim, Jay W
  • Bugata, Vega
  • Cortés-Cortés, Gerardo
  • Quevedo-Martínez, Giselle
  • Camps, Manel
  • et al.

Plasmids are autonomously replicating sequences that help cells adapt to diverse stresses. Theta plasmids are the most frequent plasmid class in enterobacteria. They co-opt two host replication mechanisms: replication at oriC, a DnaA-dependent pathway leading to replisome assembly (theta class A), and replication fork restart, a PriA-dependent pathway leading to primosome assembly through primer extension and D-loop formation (theta classes B, C, and D). To ensure autonomy from the host's replication and to facilitate copy number regulation, theta plasmids have unique mechanisms of replication initiation at the plasmid origin of replication (ori). Tight plasmid copy number regulation is essential because of the major and direct impact plasmid gene dosage has on gene expression. The timing of plasmid replication and segregation are also critical for optimizing plasmid gene expression. Therefore, we propose that plasmid replication needs to be understood in its biological context, where complex origins of replication (redundant origins, mosaic and cointegrated replicons), plasmid segregation, and toxin-antitoxin systems are often present. Highlighting their tight functional integration with ori function, we show that both partition and toxin-antitoxin systems tend to be encoded in close physical proximity to the ori in a large collection of Escherichia coli plasmids. We also propose that adaptation of plasmids to their host optimizes their contribution to the host's fitness while restricting access to broad genetic diversity, and we argue that this trade-off between adaptation to host and access to genetic diversity is likely a determinant factor shaping the distribution of replicons in populations of enterobacteria.

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