Characterization of a bacteriocinogenic plasmid from Clostridium perfringens and molecular genetic analysis of the bacteriocin-encoding gene.
The bacteriocinogenic plasmid pIP404 from Clostridium perfringens was isolated and cloned in Escherichia coli, and its physical map was deduced. Expression of the bcn gene, encoding bacteriocin BCN5, is inducible by UV irradiation of C. perfringens and thus resembles the SOS-regulated bacteriocin genes of enteric bacteria. The location of bcn on pIP404 was established by a dot-blot procedure, using specific hybridization probes to analyze mRNA samples from induced and uninduced cultures. From the nucleotide sequence of its gene, the molecular weight of BCN5 was deduced to be 96,591, and a protein of this size was secreted by bacteriocin-producing cultures of C. perfringens. The primary structure of the protein suggests that it may function as an ionophore, since a hydrophobic domain, resembling those of the ionophoric colicins, is present at the COOH terminus. No bacteriocin activity could be detected in E. coli harboring plasmids bearing the bcn gene, even when the transcriptional and translational signals were replaced by those of lacZ. A possible explanation may be found in the unusual codon usage of the adenine-thymine-rich bcn gene, as this shows a preference for codons with a high adenine-plus-thymine content, especially in the wobble position. Many of the frequently used codons correspond to those recognized by minor tRNA species in E. coli. Consequently, bcn expression might be limited by tRNA availability in this bacterium.