Mechanisms of Conjugative Transfer and Type IV Secretion-Mediated Effector Transport in Gram-Positive Bacteria

  • Elisabeth GrohmannEmail author
  • Walter Keller
  • Günther Muth
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 413)


Conjugative DNA transfer is the most important means to transfer antibiotic resistance genes and virulence determinants encoded by plasmids, integrative conjugative elements (ICE), and pathogenicity islands among bacteria. In gram-positive bacteria, there exist two types of conjugative systems, (i) type IV secretion system (T4SS)-dependent ones, like those encoded by the Enterococcus, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Bacillus, and Clostridia mobile genetic elements and (ii) T4SS-independent ones, as those found on Streptomyces plasmids. Interestingly, very recently, on the Streptococcus suis genome, the first gram-positive T4SS not only involved in conjugative DNA transfer but also in effector translocation to the host was detected. Although no T4SS core complex structure from gram-positive bacteria is available, several structures from T4SS protein key factors from Enterococcus and Clostridia plasmids have been solved. In this chapter, we summarize the current knowledge on the molecular mechanisms and structure–function relationships of the diverse conjugation machineries and emerging research needs focused on combatting infections and spread of multiple resistant gram-positive pathogens.


Conjugative type IV secretion Plasmid Integrative conjugative element Pathogenicity island Antibiotic resistance 



E. G. thanks the German Aerospace Center (DLR) for funding (grant 50WB1466). G. M. thanks the DFG (SFB-766) for financial support. Funding by the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) under project number P27383 to W. K. is acknowledged. We apologize that not all valuable contributions of our colleagues to the topic could be included due to limitations of space.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Grohmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Walter Keller
    • 2
  • Günther Muth
    • 3
  1. 1.Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, Life Sciences and TechnologyBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Molecular Biosciences, BioTechMed, University of GrazGrazAustria
  3. 3.Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine Tübingen, University TübingenTübingenGermany

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