Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 34847155
Link to DOI – e100991910.1371/journal.pgen.1009919
PLoS Genet 2021 Nov; 17(11): e1009919
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the major threats to Public Health worldwide. Understanding the transfer and maintenance of antimicrobial resistance genes mediated by mobile genetic elements is thus urgent. In this work, we focus on the ColE1-like plasmid family, whose distinctive replication and multicopy nature has given rise to key discoveries and tools in molecular biology. Despite being massively used, the hosts, functions, and evolutionary history of these plasmids remain poorly known. Here, we built specific Hidden Markov Model (HMM) profiles to search ColE1 replicons within genomes. We identified 1,035 ColE1 plasmids in five Orders of γ-Proteobacteria, several of which are described here for the first time. The phylogenetic analysis of these replicons and their characteristic MOBP5/HEN relaxases suggest that ColE1 plasmids have diverged apart, with little transfer across orders, but frequent transfer across families. Additionally, ColE1 plasmids show a functional shift over the last decades, losing their characteristic bacteriocin production while gaining several antimicrobial resistance genes, mainly enzymatic determinants and including several extended-spectrum betalactamases and carbapenemases. Furthermore, ColE1 plasmids facilitate the intragenomic mobilization of these determinants, as various replicons were identified co-integrated with large non-ColE1 plasmids, mostly via transposases. These results illustrate how families of plasmids evolve and adapt their gene repertoires to bacterial adaptive requirements.