Plasmid-mediated sensitivity to filamentous phage IKe is shown to be a property exclusive to plasmids of the N incompatibility group. As with other sex factor-specific phages, IKe sensitivity results from the provision of a plasmid-encoded receptor. However, direct evidence for IKe adsorption to a sex pilus-like structure is so far lacking.
Mutations in an N plasmid were obtained which affected IKe infect-ability and N transfer frequency simultaneously, though to different extents. IKe receptors could be removed to a limited extent by high speed blending, but only under more extreme conditions (higher speed and in low ionic strength medium) than F pili. As with F-specific filamentous phages, IKe adsorption was partially blocked by Zn2+.
We tentatively suggest that the results accord with the IKe receptor being a sex pilus rather different from F and I pili (possibly in being much shorter in liquid culture), but other interpretations of these data are possible.