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Free Content The genetic element pSSVx of the extremely thermophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus is a hybrid between a plasmid and a virus

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A new Sulfolobus islandicus strain, REY15/4, harboured both a novel fusellovirus, SSV2, and a small plasmid, pSSVx. The plasmid spread in S. solfataricus P1 together with the virus after infection with either the supernatant of a culture of REY15/4 or purified virus. Spreading of the plasmid required co-transfection with either SSV2 or the related SSV1 as helpers. Virus purified from REY15/4 constituted a mixture of two sizes of particles, one with the dimensions of a normal fusellovirus and the other smaller. Cloned SSV2 produced only the larger particles and only SSV2 DNA, indicating that the smaller particles contained pSSVx packaged into capsids made up of SSV2 components. The 5.7 kb genome of pSSVx revealed regions of high sequence similarity to the cryptic Sulfolobales plasmids pRN1, pRN2 and pDL10. Thus, pSSVx belongs to the family of pRN plasmids that share a highly conserved region, which probably constitutes the minimal replicon. They also contain a variable region showing no sequence similarity. In pSSVx, this region contains three open reading frames (ORFs), two of which are juxtapositioned and show high sequence similarity to a tandem of ORFs in fusellovirus genomes. Neither pRN1 nor pRN2, which lack this tandem, spread in the presence of the fuselloviruses, which implies that the sequences of these ORFs enable pSSVx to use the packaging system of the viral helpers for spreading.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Max Planck-Institut für Biochemie, 82152 Martinsried, Germany., 2: Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Copenhagen, Sølvgade 83H, DK-1307, Copenhagen K, Denmark., 3: University of Iceland, Keldnaholt, IS 112 Reykjavik, Iceland.

Publication date: October 1, 1999

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