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Concept: Plasmid


The recent discovery of a plasmid-borne colistin resistance gene, mcr-1, heralds the emergence of truly pan-drug resistant bacteria (1).….

Concepts: Gene, Proteobacteria, DNA, Genome, Plasmid, Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Antibiotic resistance


The mcr-1 gene confers resistance to the polymyxins, including the antibiotic colistin, a medication of last resort for multidrug-resistant infections. The mcr-1 gene was first reported in 2015 in food, animal, and patient isolates from China (1) and is notable for being the first plasmid-mediated colistin resistance mechanism to be identified. Plasmids can be transferred between bacteria, potentially spreading the resistance gene to other bacterial species. Since its discovery, the mcr-1 gene has been reported from Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and North America (2,3), including the United States, where it has been identified in Escherichia coli isolated from three patients and from two intestinal samples from pigs (2,4-6). In July 2016, the Pathogen Detection System at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (Bethesda, Maryland) identified mcr-1 in the whole genome sequence of an E. coli isolate from a Connecticut patient (7); this is the fourth isolate from a U.S. patient to contain the mcr-1 gene.

Concepts: Gene, Antibiotic resistance, DNA, Plasmid, Genome, United States, Escherichia coli, Bacteria


Multidrug resistance (MDR) plasmids frequently encode antibiotic resistance genes conferring qualitatively different mechanisms of resistance. We show that the antibiotic concentrations selecting for the RK2 plasmid in Escherichia coli depend upon the sociality of the drug resistance: Selection for a selfish drug resistance (efflux-pump) occurred at very low drug concentrations, just 1.3% of the sensitive’s MIC, whereas selection for a cooperative drug resistance (modifying-enzyme) occurred at drug concentrations exceeding the MIC of the plasmid-free strain.

Concepts: Genome, Plasmid, Bacterial conjugation, Natural selection, Gene, Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Antibiotic resistance


In this issue of Genome Biology, Nellåker et al. show massive purging of deleterious transposable element variants, through negative selection, in 18 mouse strains.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Natural selection, Selfish DNA, Plasmid, Transposon, Evolution, RNA


This paper describes a microparticle delivery device that generates a plasma jet through laser ablation of a thin metal foil and uses the jet to accomplish particle delivery into soft living targets for transferring biological agents. Pure gold microparticles of 1 µm size were coated with a plasmid DNA, pIG121Hm, and were deposited as a thin layer on one surface of an aluminum foil. The laser (Nd:YAG, 1064 nm wavelength) ablation of the foil generated a plasma jet that carried the DNA coated particles into the living onion cells. The particles could effectively penetrate the target cells and disseminate the DNA, effecting the transfection of the cells. Generation of the plasma jet on laser ablation of the foil and its role as a carrier of microparticles was visualized using a high-speed video camera, Shimadzu HPV-1, at a frame rate of 500 kfps (2 µs interframe interval) in a shadowgraph optical set-up. The particle speed could be measured from the visualized images, which was about 770 m/s initially, increased to a magnitude of 1320 m/s, and after a quasi-steady state over a distance of 10 mm with an average magnitude of 1100 m/s, started declining, which typically is the trend of a high-speed, pulsed, compressible jet. Aluminum launch pad (for the particles) was used in the present study to make the procedure cost-effective, whereas the guided, biocompatible launch pads made of gold, silver or titanium can be used in the device during the actual clinical operations. The particle delivery device has a potential to have a miniature form and can be an effective, hand-held drug/DNA delivery device for biological applications.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Organism, Aluminium, Gold, Laser, Gene, Plasmid, DNA


Salmonella enterica serovar Heidelberg is among the most detected serovars in swine and poultry, ranks among the top five serotypes associated with human salmonellosis and is disproportionately associated with invasive infections and mortality in humans. Salmonella are known to carry plasmids associated with antimicrobial resistance and virulence. To identify plasmid-associated genes in multidrug resistant S. enterica serovar Heidelberg, antimicrobial resistance plasmids from five isolates were sequenced using the 454 LifeSciences pyrosequencing technology. Four of the isolates contained incompatibility group (Inc) A/C multidrug resistance plasmids harboring at least eight antimicrobial resistance genes. Each of these strains also carried a second resistance plasmid including two IncFIB, an IncHI2 and a plasmid lacking an identified Inc group. The fifth isolate contained an IncI1 plasmid, encoding resistance to gentamicin, streptomycin and sulfonamides. Some of the IncA/C plasmids lacked the full concert of transfer genes and yet were able to be conjugally transferred, likely due to the transfer genes carried on the companion plasmids in the strains. Several non-IncA/C resistance plasmids also carried putative virulence genes. When the sequences were compared to previously sequenced plasmids, it was found that while all plasmids demonstrated some similarity to other plasmids, they were unique, often due to differences in mobile genetic elements in the plasmids. Our study suggests that Salmonella Heidelberg isolates harbor plasmids that co-select for antimicrobial resistance and virulence, along with genes that can mediate the transfer of plasmids within and among other bacterial isolates. Prevalence of such plasmids can complicate efforts to control the spread of S. enterica serovar Heidelberg in food animal and human populations.

Concepts: Plasmid, 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, Molecular biology, Salmonella, Bacteria, DNA, Microbiology, Salmonella enterica


We report the complete genome sequence of Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis KLDS4.0325, a probiotic bacterium isolated from homemade koumiss in Xinjiang, China. We have determined the complete genome sequence of strain KLDS4.0325, which consists of a chromosome and three plasmids and reveals genes that are likely to be involved in dairy fermentation and that have probiotic qualities.

Concepts: Virus, Plasmid, Lactococcus lactis, Archaea, Gene, Genome, Bacteria, DNA


Bacteriophages are the most abundant biological entities on the planet, playing crucial roles in the shaping of bacterial populations. Phages have smaller genomes than their bacterial hosts, yet there are currently fewer fully sequenced phage than bacterial genomes. We assessed the suitability of Illumina technology for high-throughput sequencing and subsequent assembly of phage genomes. In silico datasets reveal that 30× coverage is sufficient to correctly assemble the complete genome of ~98.5% of known phages, with experimental data confirming that the majority of phage genomes can be assembled at 30× coverage. Furthermore, in silico data demonstrate it is possible to co-sequence multiple phages from different hosts, without introducing assembly errors.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Biotechnology, Plasmid, Virus, Bacteria, DNA, Bacteriophage, Genome


Bacterial conjugation is the main mechanism for the dissemination of multiple antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. This dissemination could be controlled by molecules that interfere with the conjugation process. A search for conjugation inhibitors among a collection of 1,632 natural compounds, identified tanzawaic acids A and B as best hits. They specially inhibited IncW and IncFII conjugative systems, including plasmids mobilized by them. Plasmids belonging to IncFI, IncI, IncL/M, IncX and IncH incompatibility groups were targeted to a lesser extent, whereas IncN and IncP plasmids were unaffected. Tanzawaic acids showed reduced toxicity in bacterial, fungal or human cells, when compared to synthetic conjugation inhibitors, opening the possibility of their deployment in complex environments, including natural settings relevant for antibiotic resistance dissemination.

Concepts: Pilus, DNA, Molecular biology, Plasmid, Bacterial conjugation, Escherichia coli, Antibiotic resistance, Bacteria


Bacterial conjugation constitutes a major horizontal gene transfer mechanism for the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes among human pathogens. Antibiotic resistance spread could be halted or diminished by molecules that interfere with the conjugation process. In this work, synthetic 2-alkynoic fatty acids were identified as a novel class of conjugation inhibitors. Their chemical properties were investigated by using the prototype 2-hexadecynoic acid and its derivatives. Essential features of effective inhibitors were the carboxylic group, an optimal long aliphatic chain of 16 carbon atoms, and one unsaturation. Chemical modification of these groups led to inactive or less-active derivatives. Conjugation inhibitors were found to act on the donor cell, affecting a wide number of pathogenic bacterial hosts, including Escherichia, Salmonella, Pseudomonas, and Acinetobacter spp. Conjugation inhibitors were active in inhibiting transfer of IncF, IncW, and IncH plasmids, moderately active against IncI, IncL/M, and IncX plasmids, and inactive against IncP and IncN plasmids. Importantly, the use of 2-hexadecynoic acid avoided the spread of a derepressed IncF plasmid into a recipient population, demonstrating the feasibility of abolishing the dissemination of antimicrobial resistances by blocking bacterial conjugation.

Concepts: Microbiology, Plasmid, Escherichia coli, DNA, Bacterial conjugation, Gene, Antibiotic resistance, Bacteria