An essential virulence protein of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, VirB4, requires an intact mononucleotide binding domain to function in transfer of T-DNA

Karla Jean Fullner, Kathryn M. Stephens, Eugene W. Nester*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

The 11 gene products of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens virB operon, together with the VirD4 protein, are proposed to form a membrane complex which mediates the transfer of T-DNA to plant cells. This study examined one putative component of that complex, VirB4. A deletion of the virB4 gene on the Ti plasmid pTiA6NC was constructed by replacing the virB4 gene with the kanamycin resistance-conferring nptII gene. The virB4 gene was found to be necessary for virulence on plants and for the transfer of IncQ plasmids to recipient cells of A. tumefaciens. Genetic complementation of the deletion strain by the virB4 gene under control of the virB promoter confirmed that the deletion was nonpolar on downstream virB genes. Genetic complementation was also achieved with the virB4 gene placed under control of the lac promoter, even though synthesis of the VirB4 protein from this promoter is far below wild-type levels. Having shown a role for the VirB4 protein in DNA transfer, lysine-439, found within the conserved mononucleotide binding domain of VirB4, was changed to a glutamic acid, methionine, or arginine by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. virB4 genes bearing these mutations were unable to complement the virB4 deletion for either virulence or for IncQ transfer, showing that an intact mononucleotide binding site is necessary for the function of VirB4 in DNA transfer. The necessity of the VirB4 protein with an intact mononucleotide binding site for extracellular complementation of virE2 mutants was also shown. In merodiploid studies, lysine-439 mutations present in trans decreased IncQ plasmid transfer frequencies, suggesting that VirB4 functions within a complex to facilitate DNA transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-715
Number of pages12
JournalMGG Molecular & General Genetics
Volume245
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1994

Keywords

  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens
  • IncQ plasmid conjugation
  • T-DNA transfer
  • Transfer complexes
  • VirB4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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