Vertical and horizontal gene transfer tradeoffs direct plasmid fitness.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Plasmid fitness is directed by two orthogonal processes-vertical transfer through cell division and horizontal transfer through conjugation. When considered individually, improvements in either mode of transfer can promote how well a plasmid spreads and persists. Together, however, the metabolic cost of conjugation could create a tradeoff that constrains plasmid evolution. Here, we present evidence for the presence, consequences, and molecular basis of a conjugation-growth tradeoff across 40 plasmids derived from clinical Escherichia coli pathogens. We discover that most plasmids operate below a conjugation efficiency threshold for major growth effects, indicating strong natural selection for vertical transfer. Below this threshold, E. coli demonstrates a remarkable growth tolerance to over four orders of magnitude change in conjugation efficiency. This tolerance fades as nutrients become scarce and horizontal transfer attracts a greater share of host resources. Our results provide insight into evolutionary constraints directing plasmid fitness and strategies to combat the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bethke, JH; Ma, HR; Tsoi, R; Cheng, L; Xiao, M; You, L

Published Date

  • February 2023

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 2

Start / End Page

  • e11300 -

PubMed ID

  • 36573357

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9912019

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1744-4292

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1744-4292

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.15252/msb.202211300


  • eng