Intercellular Transfer of Chromosomal Antimicrobial Resistance Genes between Acinetobacter baumannii Strains Mediated by Prophages.
The spread of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) among Gram-negative pathogens, including Acinetobacter baumannii, is primarily mediated by transferable plasmids; however, ARGs are frequently integrated into its chromosome. How ARG gets horizontally incorporated into the chromosome of A. baumannii, and whether it functions as a cause for further spread of ARG, remains unknown. Here, we demonstrated intercellular prophage-mediated transfer of chromosomal ARGs without direct cell-cell interaction in A. baumannii We prepared ARG-harboring extracellular DNA (eDNA) components from the culture supernatant of a multidrug-resistant (MDR) A. baumannii NU-60 strain and exposed an antimicrobial-susceptible (AS) A. baumannii ATCC 17978 strain to the eDNA components. The antimicrobial-resistant (AR) A. baumannii ATCC 17978 derivatives appeared to acquire various ARGs, originating from dispersed loci of the MDR A. baumannii chromosome, along with their surrounding regions, by homologous recombination, with the ARGs including armA (aminoglycoside resistance), blaTEM-1 (ß-lactam resistance), tet(B) (tetracycline resistance), and gyrA-81L (nalidixic acid resistance) genes. Notably, the eDNAs conferring antimicrobial resistance were enveloped in specific capsid proteins consisting of phage particles, thereby protecting the eDNAs from detergent and DNase treatments. The phages containing ARGs were likely released into the extracellular space from MDR A. baumannii, thereby transducing ARGs into AS A. baumannii, resulting in the acquisition of AR properties by the recipient. We concluded that the generalized transduction, in which phages were capable of carrying random pieces of A. baumannii genomic DNAs, enabled efficacious intercellular transfer of chromosomal ARGs between A. baumannii strains without direct cell-cell interaction. Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.