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The Integrative Conjugative Element (ICE) of Mycoplasma agalactiae: Key Elements Involved in Horizontal Dissemination and Influence of Coresident ICEs

Abstract : The discovery of integrative conjugative elements (ICEs) in wall-less mycoplasmas and the demonstration of their role in massive gene flows within and across species have shed new light on the evolution of these minimal bacteria. Of these, the ICE of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae (ICEA) represents aprototype and belongs to a new clade of the Mutator-like superfamily that has no preferential insertion site and often occurs as multiple chromosomal copies. Here,functional genomics and mating experiments were combined to address ICEA functions and define the minimal ICEA chassis conferring conjugative properties to M. agalactiae. Data further indicated a complex interaction among coresident ICEAs, since the minimal ICEA structure was influenced by the occurrence of additional ICEA copies that cantrans-complement conjugation-deficient ICEAs. However, this cooperative behavior was limited to the CDS14 surface lipoprotein, which is constitutively expressed by coresident ICEAs, and did not extend to other ICEA proteins,including the cis-acting DDE recombinase and components of the mating channel whose expression was detected only sporadically. Remarkably, conjugation-deficient mutants containing a single ICEA copy knocked out incds14 can be complemented by neighboring cells expressing CDS14. This result, together with those revealing theconservation of CDS14 functions in closely related species, may suggest a way formycoplasma ICEs to extend their interaction outside their chromosomal environment. Overall, this report provides a first model of conjugative transfer in mycoplasmas and offers valuable insights into understanding horizontal gene transfer in this highly adaptive and diverse group of minimal bacteria. IMPORTANCE: Integrative conjugative elements (ICEs) are self-transmissible mobile genetic elements that are key mediators of horizontal gene flow in bacteria. Recently, a new category of ICEs was identified that confer conjugative properties to mycoplasmas, a highly adaptive and diverse group of wall-less bacteria with reduced genomes. Unlike classical ICEs, these mobile elements have no preferential insertion specificity, and multiple mycoplasma ICE copies can be found randomly integrated into the host chromosome. Here, the prototype ICE of Mycoplasma agalactiae was used to define the minimal conjugative machinery and to propose the first model of ICE transfer in mycoplasmas. This model unveils the complex interactions taking place among coresident ICEs and suggests a way for these elements to extend their influence outside their chromosomal environment. These data pave the way for future studies aiming at deciphering chromosomal transfer, an unconventional mechanism of DNA swapping that has been recently associated with mycoplasma ICEs.
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Eric Baranowski, Emilie Dordet-Frisoni, Eveline Sagné, Marie Claude Hygonenq, Gabriela Pretre, et al.. The Integrative Conjugative Element (ICE) of Mycoplasma agalactiae: Key Elements Involved in Horizontal Dissemination and Influence of Coresident ICEs. mBio, American Society for Microbiology, 2018, 9 (4), pp.e00873-18. ⟨10.1128/mBio.00873-18⟩. ⟨hal-02622015⟩

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