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Summary

The molecular organization and functional characteristics of the pAD1 replicon-encoded par stability determinant were examined, par encodes two convergently transcribed RNAs of 210 and 65 nucleotides designated RNA I and RNA II, respectively. The sequence of RNA II is largely complementary to RNA I, suggesting that RNA II could regulate RNA I function as an anti-sense RNA. Results of functional studies are consistent with a role for par as a post-segregational killing system, the first to be identified in Gram-positive bacteria, with RNA I encoding the toxin and RNA II the antidote. These results include: (i) destabilization of par-containing replicons in the presence of a second complete par or the RNA II coding sequence in the same cell; (ii) par-dependent stabilization of a highly unstable vector at the expense of host-cell growth rate; and (iii) protection of cells from the toxic effects of overexpression of RNA I by RNA II supplied in trans.