The genomic island SGI1 and its variants, the important vehicles of multi-resistance in Salmonella strains, are integrative elements mobilized exclusively by the conjugative IncA/C plasmids. Integration and excision of the island are carried out by the SGI1-encoded site-specific recombinase Int and the recombination directionality factor Xis. Chromosomal integration ensures the stable maintenance and vertical transmission of SGI1, while excision is the initial step of horizontal transfer, followed by conjugation and integration into the recipient. We report here that SGI1 not only exploits the conjugal apparatus of the IncA/C plasmids but also utilizes the regulatory mechanisms of the conjugation system for the exact timing and activation of excision to ensure efficient horizontal transfer. This study demonstrates that the FlhDC-family activator AcaCD, which regulates the conjugation machinery of the IncA/C plasmids, serves as a signal of helper entry through binding to SGI1 xis promoter and activating SGI1 excision. Promoters of int and xis genes have been identified and the binding site of the activator has been located by footprinting and deletion analyses. We prove that expression of xis is activator-dependent while int is constitutively expressed, and this regulatory mechanism is presumably responsible for the efficient transfer and stable maintenance of SGI1.
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