The mechanism of DNA transfer in the mating system of an archaebacterium

Science  22 Sep 1989:
Vol. 245, Issue 4924, pp. 1387-1389
DOI: 10.1126/science.2818746


The genetic transfer system in the extremely halophilic archaebacterium Halobacterium volcanii is the only archaebacterial mating system known. The mechanism of genetic transfer of this archaebacterium was studied by using the immobile plasmids pHV2 and pHV11 as cytoplasmic markers. It was found that the cytoplasms of the parental types do not mix during the mating process, that each parental type can serve both as a donor and as a recipient, and that cytoplasmic bridges, with dimensions of up to 2 micrometers long and 0.1 micrometer in diameter, were formed between the parental types. These bridges appear to be used for the transfer of DNA from one cell to another. If so, this archaebacterial mating system is different from both eubacterial conjugation and eukaryotic sexual cell fusion.