The replication and maintenance properties of the broad-host-range plasmid RK2 and its derivatives were examined in nine gram-negative bacterial species. Two regions of RK2, the origin of replication (oriV) and a segment that encodes for a replication protein (trfA delta kilD, designated trfA*), are sufficient for replication in all nine species tested. However, stable maintenance of this minimal replicon (less than 0.3% loss per generation under nonselection conditions) is observed only in Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas putida, and Azotobacter vinelandii. Maintenance of this minimal replicon is unstable in Rhizobium meliloti, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Caulobacter crescentus, Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, and Rhodopseudomonas sphaeroides. A maintenance function has been localized to a 3.1-kilobase (kb) region of RK2 encoding three previously described functions: korA (trfB korB1 korD), incP1-(II), and korB. The 3.1-kb maintenance region can increase or decrease the stability of maintenance of RK2 derivatives dependent on the host species and the presence or absence of the RK2 origin of conjugal transfer (oriT). In the case of A. calcoaceticus, stable maintenance requires an RK2 segment that includes the promoter and the kilD (kilB1) functions of the trfA operon in addition to the 3.1-kb maintenance region. The broad-host-range maintenance requirements of plasmid RK2, therefore, are encoded by multiple functions, and the requirement for one or more of these functions varies among gram-negative bacterial species
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