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Transposons Tn501 (specifying mercury resistance) and Tn7 (specifying resistance to trimethoprim and streptomycin) were introduced into extra-slow-growing Rhizobium japonicum by conjugal transfer of the 82 kilobase chimeric plasmid pUW942. Mercury-resistant transconjugants were obtained at a frequency of 10-7 to 10-9. The transfer frequency of streptomycin resistance was lower than that of mercury resistance, and Tn7 was relatively unstable. pUW942 was not maintained as an autonomously replicating plasmid in R. japonicum strains. However, some of the Hgr transconjugants from the RJ19FY, RJ17W, and RJ12S strains acquired antibiotic markers of the vector plasmid pUW942. Southern hybridization of plasmid and chromosomal DNA of R. japonicum strains with 32P-labeled pUW942 and pAS8Rep-l, the same plasmid as pUW942 except that it does not contain Tn501, revealed the formation of cointegrates between pUW942 and the chromosome of R. japonicum. More transconjugants with only Tn5O1 insertions in plasmids or the chromosome were obtained in crosses with strains RJ19FY and RJ17W than with RJ12S. These retained stable Hg both in plant nodules and under nonselective in vitro growth conditions. One of the RJ19FY and two of the RJ12S Hgr transconjugants with vector plasmid-chromosome cointegrates conjugally transferred plasmids of 82, 84 or 86, and 90 kilobases, respectively, into plasmidless Escherichia coli C. These plasmids strongly hybridized to pUW942 and EcoRI digests of total DNA of each respective R. japonicum strain but not to indigenous plasmid DNA of the R. japonicum strains. These R' plasmids consisted of pUW942-specific EcoRI fragments and an additional one or two new fragments derived from the R. japonicum chromosome.