Like low-copy-number plasmids including P1 wild type, multicopy P1 mutants (P1 cop, maintained at five to eight copies per chromosome) can suppress the thermosensitive phenotype of an Escherichia coli dnaA host by forming a cointegrate. At 40 degrees C in a dnaA host suppressed by P1 cop, the only copy of P1 is the one in the host chromosome. Trivial explanations of the lack of extrachromosomal copies of P1 cop have been eliminated: (i) during integrative suppression, the P1 cop plasmid does not revert to cop+; (ii) the dnaA+ function of the host is not required to maintain P1 cop at a high copy number; and (iii) integrative recombination does not occur within the region of the plasmid involved in regulation of copy number. Since there are no more copies of the chromosomal origin (now located within the integrated P1 plasmid) than in a P1 cop+-suppressed strain, the extra initiation potential of the P1 cop is not used to provide multiple initiations of the chromosome. When a P1 cop-suppressed dnaA strain was grown at 30 degrees C so that replication could initiate from the chromosomal origin as well as from the P1 origin, multicopy supercoiled P1 DNA was found in the cells. This plasmid DNA was lost again when the temperature was shifted back to 40 degrees C
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