Plasmids of the pRM/pRF family occur in diverse Rickettsia species

Gerald D. Baldridge, Nicole Y. Burkhardt, Roderick F. Felsheim, Timothy J. Kurtti, Ulrike G. Munderloh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The recent discoveries of the pRF and pRM plasmids of Rickettsia felis and R. monacensis have contravened the long-held dogma that plasmids are not present in the bacterial genus Rickettsia (Rickettsiales; Rickettsiaceae). We report the existence of plasmids in R. helvetica, R. peacockii, R. amblyommii, and R. massiliae isolates from ixodid ticks and in an R. hoogstraalii isolate from an argasid tick. R. peacockii and four isolates of R. amblyommii from widely separated geographic locations contained plasmids that comigrated with pRM during pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and larger plasmids with mobilities similar to that of pRF. The R. peacockii plasmids were lost during long-term serial passage in cultured cells. R. montanensis did not contain a plasmid. Southern blots showed that sequences similar to those of a DnaA-like replication initiator protein, a small heat shock protein 2, and the Sca12 cell surface antigen genes on pRM and pRF were present on all of the plasmids except for that of R. massiliae, which lacked the heat shock gene and was the smallest of the plasmids. The R. hoogstraalii plasmid was most similar to pRM and contained apparent homologs of proline/betaine transporter and SpoT stringent response genes on pRM and pRF that were absent from the other plasmids. The R. hoogstraalii, R. helvetica, and R. amblyommii plasmids contained homologs of a pRM-carried gene similar to a Nitrobacter sp. helicase RecD/TraA gene, but none of the plasmids hybridized with a probe derived from a pRM-encoded gene similar to a Burkholderia sp. transposon resolvase gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-652
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2008


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