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Open Access Research article

Excision dynamics of Vibrio pathogenicity island-2 from Vibrio cholerae: role of a recombination directionality factor VefA

Salvador Almagro-Moreno12, Michael G Napolitano1 and E Fidelma Boyd1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716 USA

2 Dartmouth Medical School, Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology, Vail Bldg. Rm 106, Hanover, NH 03755

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:306  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-306

Published: 30 November 2010



Vibrio Pathogenicity Island-2 (VPI-2) is a 57 kb region present in choleragenic V. cholerae isolates that is required for growth on sialic acid as a sole carbon source. V. cholerae non-O1/O139 pathogenic strains also contain VPI-2, which in addition to sialic acid catabolism genes also encodes a type 3 secretion system in these strains. VPI-2 integrates into chromosome 1 at a tRNA-serine site and encodes an integrase intV2 (VC1758) that belongs to the tyrosine recombinase family. IntV2 is required for VPI-2 excision from chromosome 1, which occurs at very low levels, and formation of a non-replicative circular intermediate.


We determined the conditions and the factors that affect excision of VPI-2 in V. cholerae N16961. We demonstrate that excision from chromosome 1 is induced at low temperature and after sublethal UV-light irradiation treatment. In addition, after UV-light irradiation compared to untreated cells, cells showed increased expression of three genes, intV2 (VC1758), and two putative recombination directionality factors (RDFs), vefA (VC1785) and vefB (VC1809) encoded within VPI-2. We demonstrate that along with IntV2, the RDF VefA is essential for excision. We constructed a knockout mutant of vefA in V. cholerae N16961, and found that no excision of VPI-2 occurred, indicating that a functional vefA gene is required for excision. Deletion of the second RDF encoded by vefB did not result in a loss of excision. Among Vibrio species in the genome database, we identified 27 putative RDFs within regions that also encoded IntV2 homologues. Within each species the RDFs and their cognate IntV2 proteins were associated with different island regions suggesting that this pairing is widespread.


We demonstrate that excision of VPI-2 is induced under some environmental stress conditions and we show for the first time that an RDF encoded within a pathogenicity island in V. cholerae is required for excision of the region.