Intracellular excision and reintegration dynamics of the ICEclc genomic island of Pseudomonas knackmussii sp. strain B13


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Genomic islands are DNA elements acquired by horizontal gene transfer that are common to a large number of bacterial genomes, which can contribute specific adaptive functions, e.g. virulence, metabolic capacities or antibiotic resistances. Some genomic islands are still self-transferable and display an intricate life-style, reminiscent of both bacteriophages and conjugative plasmids. Here we studied the dynamical process of genomic island excision and intracellular reintegration using the integrative and conjugative element ICEclc from Pseudomonas knackmussii B13 as model. By using self-transfer of ICEclc from strain B13 to Pseudomonas putida and Cupriavidus necator as recipients, we show that ICEclc can target a number of different tRNAGly genes in a bacterial genome, but only those which carry the GCC anticodon. Two conditional traps were designed for ICEclc based on the attR sequence, and we could show that ICEclc will insert with different frequencies in such traps producing brightly fluorescent cells. Starting from clonal primary transconjugants we demonstrate that ICEclc is excising and reintegrating at detectable frequencies, even in the absence of recipient. Recombination site analysis provided evidence to explain the characteristics of a larger number of genomic island insertions observed in a variety of strains, including Bordetella petri, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia.