Interfakultäres Institut für Mikrobiologie und Infektionsmedizin Tübingen IMIT, Mikrobiologie/Biotechnologie, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, 72076, Tuebingen, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]
Time-lapse imaging of conjugative plasmid transfer in Streptomyces revealed intriguing insights into the unique two-step conjugation process of this Gram+ mycelial soil bacterium. Differentially labelling of donor and recipient strains with distinct fluorescent proteins allowed the visualization of plasmid transfer in living mycelium. In nearly all observed matings, plasmid transfer occurred when donor and recipient hyphae made intimate contact at the lateral walls. Plasmid transfer does not involve a complete fusion of donor and recipient hyphae, but depends on a pore formed by the FtsK-like DNA translocase TraB. Following the initial transfer at the contact site of donor and recipient, the plasmids spread within the recipient mycelium by invading neighboring compartments, separated by cross walls. Intra-mycelial plasmid spreading depends on a septal cross wall localized multi-protein DNA translocation apparatus consisting of TraB and several Spd proteins and is abolished in a spd mutant. The ability to spread within the recipient mycelium is a crucial adaptation to the mycelial life style of Streptomyces, potentiating the efficiency of plasmid transfer.