Multiple plasmid origin-of-transfer regions might aid the spread of antimicrobial resistance to human pathogens
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2020
Antimicrobial resistance poses a great danger to humanity, in part due to the widespread horizontal gene transfer of plasmids via conjugation. Modeling of plasmid transfer is essential to uncovering the fundamentals of resistance transfer and for the development of predictive measures to limit the spread of resistance. However, a major limitation in the current understanding of plasmids is the incomplete characterization of the conjugative DNA transfer mechanisms, which conceals the actual potential for plasmid transfer in nature. Here, we consider that the plasmid-borne origin-of-transfer substrates encode specific DNA structural properties that can facilitate finding these regions in large datasets and develop a DNA structure-based alignment procedure for typing the transfer substrates that outperforms sequence-based approaches. Thousands of putative DNA transfer substrates are identified, showing that plasmid mobility can be twofold higher and span almost twofold more host species than is currently known. Over half of all putative mobile plasmids contain the means for mobilization by conjugation systems belonging to different mobility groups, which can hypothetically link previously confined host ranges across ecological habitats into a robust plasmid transfer network. This hypothetical network is found to facilitate the transfer of antimicrobial resistance from environmental genetic reservoirs to human pathogens, which might be an important driver of the observed rapid resistance development in humans and thus an important point of focus for future prevention measures.