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Authors: He, Susu and Chandler, Michael and Varani, Alessandro M and Hickman, Alison B and Dekker, John P and Dyda, Fred

The dissemination of resistance among bacteria has been facilitated by the fact that resistance genes are usually located on a diverse and evolving set of transmissible plasmids. However, the mechanisms generating diversity and enabling adaptation within highly successful resistance plasmids have remained obscure, despite their profound clinical significance. To understand these mechanisms, we have performed a detailed analysis of the mobilome (the entire mobile genetic element content) of a set of previously sequenced carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. This analysis revealed that plasmid reorganizations occurring in the natural context of colonization of human hosts were overwhelmingly driven by genetic rearrangements carried out by replicative transposons working in concert with the process of homologous recombination. A more complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary forces driving rearrangements in resistance plasmids may lead to fundamentally new strategies to address the problem of antibiotic resistance.The spread of antibiotic resistance among Gram-negative bacteria is a serious public health threat, as it can critically limit the types of drugs that can be used to treat infected patients. In particular, carbapenem-resistant members of the Enterobacteriaceae family are responsible for a significant and growing burden of morbidity and mortality. Here, we report on the mechanisms underlying the evolution of several plasmids carried by previously sequenced clinical Enterobacteriaceae isolates from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (NIH CC). Our ability to track genetic rearrangements that occurred within resistance plasmids was dependent on accurate annotation of the mobile genetic elements within the plasmids, which was greatly aided by access to long-read DNA sequencing data and knowledge of their mechanisms. Mobile genetic elements such as transposons and integrons have been strongly associated with the rapid spread of genes responsible for antibiotic resistance. Understanding the consequences of their actions allowed us to establish unambiguous evolutionary relationships between plasmids in the analysis set. Copyright © 2016 He et al.

Journal: mBio
DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01987-16
Year: 2016

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