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Keywords:

  • relaxosome;
  • relaxase;
  • mobilization;
  • conjugation;
  • coupling protein;
  • origin of transfer

Abstract

Bacterial conjugation in Gram-negative bacteria is triggered by a signal that connects the relaxosome to the coupling protein (T4CP) and transferosome, a type IV secretion system. The relaxosome, a nucleoprotein complex formed at the origin of transfer (oriT), consists of a relaxase, directed to the nic site by auxiliary DNA-binding proteins. The nic site undergoes cleavage and religation during vegetative growth, but this is converted to a cleavage and unwinding reaction when a competent mating pair has formed. Here, we review the biochemistry of relaxosomes and ponder some of the remaining questions about the nature of the signal that begins the process.