sp. DAB_AL32B, originating from Spitsbergen island (Arctic), carries the large plasmid pP32BP2 (54,438 bp). Analysis of the pP32BP2 nucleotide sequence revealed the presence of three predicted phenotypic modules that comprise nearly 30% of the plasmid genome. These modules appear to be involved in fimbriae synthesis via the chaperone-usher pathway (FIM module) and the aerobic and anaerobic metabolism of carnitine (CAR and CAI modules, respectively). The FIM module was found to be functional in diverse hosts since it facilitated the attachment of bacterial cells to abiotic surfaces, enhancing biofilm formation. The CAI module did not show measurable activity in any of the tested strains. Interestingly, the CAR module enabled the enzymatic breakdown of carnitine, but this led to the formation of the toxic by-product trimethylamine, which inhibited bacterial growth. Thus, on the one hand, pP32BP2 can enhance biofilm formation, a highly advantageous feature in cold environments, while on the other, it may prevent bacterial growth under certain environmental conditions. The detrimental effect of harboring pP32BP2 (and its CAR module) seems to be conditional, since this replicon may also confer the ability to use carnitine as an alternative carbon source, although a pathway to utilize trimethylamine is most probably necessary to make this beneficial. Therefore, the phenotype determined by this CAR-containing plasmid depends on the metabolic background of the host strain.
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