The promiscuous conjugation machinery of the Gram-negative plasmid RP4 has been reassembled in a minimized, highly transmissible vector for propagating genetically encoded traits through diverse types of naturally occurring microbial communities. To this end, the whole of the RP4-encoded transfer determinants (tra, mob genes, and origin of transfer oriT) was excised from their natural context, minimized, and recreated in the form of a streamlined DNA segment borne by an autoselective replicon. The resulting constructs (the pMATING series) could be self-transferred through a variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic recipients employing such a rationally designed conjugal delivery device. Insertion of GFP reporter into pMATING exposed the value of this genetic tool for delivering heterologous genes to both specific mating partners and complex consortia (e.g., plant/soil rhizosphere). The results accredited the effective and functional transfer of the recombinant plasmids to a diversity of hosts. Yet the inspection of factors that limit interspecies DNA transfer in such scenarios uncovered type VI secretion systems as one of the factual barriers that check otherwise high conjugal frequencies of tested RP4 derivatives. We argue that the hereby presented programming of hyperpromiscuous gene transfer can become a phenomenal asset for the propagation of beneficial traits through various scales of the environmental microbiome.
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