The minimal replication origin (ori) of the plasmid pSC101 has been previously defined as an approximately 220-bp region by using plasmids defective in the par region, which is a cis-acting determinant of plasmid stability. This ori region contains the DnaA binding sequence, three repeated sequences (iterons), and an inverted repeat (IR) element (IR-1), one of the binding sites of an initiator protein, Rep (or RepA). In the present study, we show that plasmids containing par can replicate at a nearly normal copy number in the absence of IR-1 but still require a region (the downstream region) between the third iteron and IR-1. Because par is dispensable in plasmids retaining IR-1, par and IR-1 can compensate each other for efficient replication. The region from the DnaA box to the downstream region can support DNA replication at a reduced frequency, and it is designated "core-ori." Addition of either IR-1 or par to core-ori increases the copy number of the plasmid up to a nearly normal level. However, the IR-1 element must be located downstream of the third iteron (or upstream of the rep gene) to enhance replication of the plasmid, while the par region, to which DNA gyrase can bind, functions optimally regardless of its location. Furthermore, the enhancer activity of IR-1 is dependent on the helical phase of the DNA double helix, suggesting that the Rep protein bound to IR-1 stimulates the activation of ori via its interaction with another factor or factors capable of binding to individual loci within ori
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