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Research in Microbiology
Vol. 168 (4), 2017, Pages: 319–330

Detection of the cryptic prophage-like molecule pBtic235 in Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis

Annika Gillis, Suxia Guo, Alexandre Bolotin, Lionel Makart, Alexei Sorokin, Jacques Mahillon

Laboratory of Food and Environmental Microbiology, Earth and Life Institute, UCL, Croix du Sud 2, L7.05.12, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Bacillus thuringiensis has long been recognized to carry numerous extrachromosomal molecules. Of particular interest are the strains belonging to the B. thuringiensis subsp. israelensis lineage, as they can harbor at least seven extrachromosomal molecules. One of these elements seems to be a cryptic molecule that may have been disregarded in strains considered plasmid-less. Therefore, this work focused on this cryptic molecule, named pBtic235. Using different approaches that included transposition-tagging, large plasmid gel electrophoresis and Southern blotting, conjugation and phage-induction experiments, in combination with bioinformatics analyses, it was found that pBtic235 is a hybrid molecule of 235,425 bp whose genome displays potential plasmid- and phage-like modules. The sequence of pBtic235 has been identified in all sequenced genomes of B. thuringiensis subsp. israelensis strains. Here, the pBtic235 sequence was considered identical to that of plasmid pBTHD789-2 from strain HD-789. Despite the fact that the pBtic235 genome possesses 240 putative CDSs, many of them have no homologs in the databases. However, CDSs coding for potential proteins involved in replication, genome packaging and virion structure, cell lysis, regulation of lytic-lysogenic cycles, metabolite transporters, stress and metal resistance, were identified. The candidate plasmidial prophage pBtic235 exemplifies the notable diversity of the extrachromosomal realm found in B. thuringiensis.

Keywords: Israelensis plasmids; pBtic235; Plasmidial prophage; Biopesticide.

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