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Plasmid transfer between Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis strain in laboratory culture, river water, and dipteran larvae

Thomas, D.J.I., Morgan, J.A.W., Whipps, J.M., Saunders, J.R.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2001 v.67 no.1 pp. 330-338
genetic transformation, Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis, Aedes aegypti, plasmids, river water, cultured cells, pH, larvae, temperature, strains
Plasmid transfer between strains of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis was studied under a range of environmentally relevant laboratory conditions in vitro, in river water, and in mosquito larvae. Mobilization of pBC16 was detected in vitro at a range of temperatures, pH values, and available water conditions, and the maximum transfer ratio was 10(-3) transconjugant per recipient under optimal conditions. Transfer of conjugative plasmid pXO16::Tn5401 was also detected under this range of conditions. However, a maximum transfer ratio of 1.0 transconjugant per recipient was attained, and every recipient became a transconjugant. In river water, transfer of pBC16 was not detected, probably as a result of the low transfer frequency for this plasmid and the formation of spores by the introduced donor and recipient strains. In contrast, transfer of plasmid pXO16::Tn5401 was detected in water, but at a lower transfer ratio (ca. 10(-2) transconjugant per donor). The number of transconjugants increased over the first 7 days, probably as a result of new transfer events between cells, since growth of both donor and recipient cells in water was not detected. Mobilization of pBC16 was not detected in killed mosquito larvae, but transfer of plasmid pXO16::Tn5401 was evident, with a maximum rate of 10(-3) transconjugant per donor. The reduced transfer rate in insects compared to broth cultures may be accounted for by competition from the background bacterial population present in the mosquito gut and diet or by the maintenance of a large population of B. thuringiensis spores in the insects.