April 21, 2020  |  

Phylogenetic barriers to horizontal transfer of antimicrobial peptide resistance genes in the human gut microbiota.

The human gut microbiota has adapted to the presence of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which are ancient components of immune defence. Despite its medical importance, it has remained unclear whether AMP resistance genes in the gut microbiome are available for genetic exchange between bacterial species. Here, we show that AMP resistance and antibiotic resistance genes differ in their mobilization patterns and functional compatibilities with new bacterial hosts. First, whereas AMP resistance genes are widespread in the gut microbiome, their rate of horizontal transfer is lower than that of antibiotic resistance genes. Second, gut microbiota culturing and functional metagenomics have revealed that AMP resistance genes originating from phylogenetically distant bacteria have only a limited potential to confer resistance in Escherichia coli, an intrinsically susceptible species. Taken together, functional compatibility with the new bacterial host emerges as a key factor limiting the genetic exchange of AMP resistance genes. Finally, our results suggest that AMPs induce highly specific changes in the composition of the human microbiota, with implications for disease risks.

April 21, 2020  |  

Global-level population genomics reveals differential effects of geography and phylogeny on horizontal gene transfer in soil bacteria.

Although microorganisms are known to dominate Earth’s biospheres and drive biogeochemical cycling, little is known about the geographic distributions of microbial populations or the environmental factors that pattern those distributions. We used a global-level hierarchical sampling scheme to comprehensively characterize the evolutionary relationships and distributional limitations of the nitrogen-fixing bacterial symbionts of the crop chickpea, generating 1,027 draft whole-genome sequences at the level of bacterial populations, including 14 high-quality PacBio genomes from a phylogenetically representative subset. We find that diverse Mesorhizobium taxa perform symbiosis with chickpea and have largely overlapping global distributions. However, sampled locations cluster based on the phylogenetic diversity of Mesorhizobium populations, and diversity clusters correspond to edaphic and environmental factors, primarily soil type and latitude. Despite long-standing evolutionary divergence and geographic isolation, the diverse taxa observed to nodulate chickpea share a set of integrative conjugative elements (ICEs) that encode the major functions of the symbiosis. This symbiosis ICE takes 2 forms in the bacterial chromosome-tripartite and monopartite-with tripartite ICEs confined to a broadly distributed superspecies clade. The pairwise evolutionary relatedness of these elements is controlled as much by geographic distance as by the evolutionary relatedness of the background genome. In contrast, diversity in the broader gene content of Mesorhizobium genomes follows a tight linear relationship with core genome phylogenetic distance, with little detectable effect of geography. These results illustrate how geography and demography can operate differentially on the evolution of bacterial genomes and offer useful insights for the development of improved technologies for sustainable agriculture.

April 21, 2020  |  

Real time monitoring of Aeromonas salmonicida evolution in response to successive antibiotic therapies in a commercial fish farm.

Our ability to predict evolutionary trajectories of pathogens in response to antibiotic pressure is one of the promising leverage to fight against the present antibiotic resistance worldwide crisis. Yet, few studies tackled this question in situ at the outbreak level, due to the difficulty to link a given pathogenic clone evolution with its precise antibiotic exposure over time. In this study, we monitored the real-time evolution of an Aeromonas salmonicida clone in response to successive antibiotic and vaccine therapies in a commercial fish farm. The clone was responsible for a four-year outbreak of furunculosis within a Recirculating Aquaculture System Salmo salar farm in China, and we reconstructed the precise tempo of mobile genetic elements (MGEs) acquisition events during this period. The resistance profile provided by the acquired MGEs closely mirrored the antibiotics used to treat the outbreak, and we evidenced that two subclonal groups developed similar resistances although unrelated MGE acquisitions. Finally, we also demonstrated the efficiency of vaccination in outbreak management and its positive effect on antibiotic resistance prevalence. Our study provides unprecedented knowledge critical to understand evolutionary trajectories of resistant pathogens outside the laboratory. © 2019 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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