Chapter 18 : The Role of Conjugation in the Evolution of Bacteria

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There are apparently different mechanisms to achieve conjugation if one judges by the lack of sequence similarity among conjugative plasmids. The process of conjugation can be conveniently divided into three basic steps: initiation (or DNA processing in the donor), DNA transport, and termination (or DNA processing in the recipient). The plasmid R388 is an ideal model to study conjugation because of its simplicity. In an envisaged scenario, plasmids are the cavalry in the army of bacterial evolution, the first to arrive to the battlefield. The rationale behind this idea is that by inhibiting conjugation, a two-pronged weapon is used to combat bacterial disease: on one side the spread of antibiotic resistance is avoided, and on the other, some mechanisms of virulence that directly use type IV secretion systems can be directly attacked. In summary, conjugation is an essential feature in the physiology of plasmids. Conjugation plays an important role in the evolution of bacterial genomes. Human pathogenic bacteria have acquired many of their virulent traits, as well as antibiotic resistance, by conjugation. If one learns how to control conjugation, an additional potent weapon to combat human bacterial disease can be obtained.

Citation: de la Cruz F. 2012. The Role of Conjugation in the Evolution of Bacteria, p 133-138. In Kolter R, Maloy S (ed), Microbes and Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818470.ch18
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