Gene transfer agents (GTAs) are shaped like bacteriophage particles but have many properties that distinguish them from bacteriophages. GTAs play a role in horizontal gene transfer in nature and thus affect the evolution of prokaryotic genomes. In the course of studies on the extracellular production of designed RNAs using the marine bacterium Rhodovulum sulfidophilum, we found that this bacterium produces a GTA-like particle. The particle contains DNA fragments of 4.5. kb, which consist of randomly fragmented genomic DNA from the bacterium. This 4.5-kb DNA production was prevented while quorum sensing was inhibited. Direct observation of the particle by transmission electron microscopy revealed that the particle resembles a tailed phage and has a head diameter of about 40. nm and a tail length of about 60. nm. We also identified the structural genes for the GTA in the genome. Translated amino acid sequences and gene positions are closely related to those of the genes that encode the Rhodobacter capsulatus GTA. This is the first report of a GTA-like particle from the genus Rhodovulum. However, gene transfer activity of this particle has not yet been confirmed. The differences between this particle and other GTAs are discussed.
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