The complete nucleotide sequences of two bacteriocin-encoding plasmids isolated from Hafnia alvei (pAlvA and pAlvB) were determined. Both plasmids resemble ColE1-type replicons and carry mobilization genes, as well as colicin-like bacteriocin operons. These bacteriocins appear to be chimeras consisting of translocation domains from Tol-dependent colicins, unique binding domains, and killing and immunity domains similar to those of the pore-forming colicin Ia. Just as is found for colicin Ia, these H. alvei bacteriocins (alveicins) lack lysis genes. The alveicins are unusually small at 408 and 358 amino acids for alveicin A and B, respectively, which would make alveicin B the smallest pore-forming bacteriocin yet discovered. The pattern of nucleotide substitution in the alveicins suggests that the dominant forces in the evolution of their killing domains and immunity genes are neutral mutation and random genetic drift rather than diversifying selection, which has been implicated in the evolution of other colicins. Five of six bacteriocinogenic isolates of H. alvei were found to carry plasmids identical to pAlvA. Comparisons of the levels of nucleotide divergence in five housekeeping genes to the levels of divergence in their respective plasmids led us to conclude that pAlvA is transferring laterally through the H. alvei population relatively rapidly.
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