Bacteria harboring conjugative plasmids have the potential for spreading antibiotic resistance through horizontal gene transfer. It is described that the selection and dissemination of antibiotic resistance is enhanced by stressors, like metals or antibiotics, which can occur as environmental contaminants. This study aimed at unveiling the composition of the conjugative plasmidome of a hospital effluent multidrug resistant Escherichia coli strain (H1FC54) under different mating conditions. To meet this objective, plasmid pulsed field gel electrophoresis, optical mapping analyses and DNA sequencing were used in combination with phenotype analysis. Strain H1FC54 was observed to harbor five plasmids, three of which were conjugative and two of these, pH1FC54_330 and pH1FC54_140, contained metal and antibiotic resistance genes. Transconjugants obtained in the absence or presence of tellurite (0.5 μM or 5 μM), arsenite (0.5 μM, 5 μM or 15 μM) or ceftazidime (10 mg/L) and selected in the presence of sodium azide (100 mg/L) and tetracycline (16 mg/L) presented distinct phenotypes, associated with the acquisition of different plasmid combinations, including two co-integrate plasmids, of 310 kbp and 517 kbp. The variable composition of the conjugative plasmidome, the formation of co-integrates during conjugation, as well as the transfer of non-transferable plasmids via co-integration, and the possible association between antibiotic, arsenite and tellurite tolerance was demonstrated. These evidences bring interesting insights into the comprehension of the molecular and physiological mechanisms that underlie antibiotic resistance propagation in the environment.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Funding Agencies supporting the EuroNanoMed Joint Transnational Call project “ Nanofluidics for ultrafast diagnosis of bacterial infections ” (NanoDiaBac, ENMed/0001/2014 ): The Swedish Research Council , Sweden; Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia ( FCT ), Portugal. The authors acknowledge the FCT projects UID/Multi/50016/2013 and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006939 (Laboratory for Process Engineering, Environment, Biotechnology and Energy – UID/EQU/00511/2013) funded by the European Regional Development Fund ( ERDF ), through COMPETE2020 - Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização (POCI) and by national funds, through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia. SKB has a personal grant from the Wenner-Gren foundation.
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- Optical DNA mapping