Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Bacterial plasmids are ubiquitous ‘minichromosomes’ that have major importance in clinical microbiology, as agents of pathogenicity and as carriers of antibiotic resistance, and in molecular genetics, through their role as vectors in gene manipulation. Plasmids carry a wide range of dispensable, transiently useful and often bizarre functions.1 Naturally occurring plasmids, in addition to modifying the host cell phenotype, carry genes involved in the control of their own vegetative replication, plasmid copy number2 and stable inheritance. They may also carry determinants for the conjugal transfer of DNA between bacteria.3 Whereas low-copy-number plasmids must be partitioned by some active process during cell division, the evidence suggests that multicopy plasmids are distributed randomly between daughter cells. Two independent determinants are necessary for the stable inheritance of multicopy plasmids, and both of these appear to act by maximizing the number of independent plasmid molecules.
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