Environmental and genetic determinants of plasmid mobility in pathogenic Escherichia coli.
Plasmids are key vehicles of horizontal gene transfer (HGT), mobilizing antibiotic resistance, virulence, and other traits among bacterial populations. The environmental and genetic forces that drive plasmid transfer are poorly understood, however, due to the lack of definitive quantification coupled with genomic analysis. Here, we integrate conjugative phenotype with plasmid genotype to provide quantitative analysis of HGT in clinical Escherichia coli pathogens. We find a substantial proportion of these pathogens (>25%) able to readily spread resistance to the most common classes of antibiotics. Antibiotics of varied modes of action had less than a 5-fold effect on conjugation efficiency in general, with one exception displaying 31-fold promotion upon exposure to macrolides and chloramphenicol. In contrast, genome sequencing reveals plasmid incompatibility group strongly correlates with transfer efficiency. Our findings offer new insights into the determinants of plasmid mobility and have implications for the development of treatments that target HGT.
Bethke, JH; Davidovich, A; Cheng, L; Lopatkin, AJ; Song, W; Thaden, JT; Fowler, VG; Xiao, M; You, L
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