Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 30576310
PLoS Genet. 2018 12;14(12):e1007862
Capsules allow bacteria to colonize novel environments, to withstand numerous stresses, and to resist antibiotics. Yet, even though genetic exchanges with other cells should be adaptive under such circumstances, it has been suggested that capsules lower the rates of homologous recombination and horizontal gene transfer. We analysed over one hundred pan-genomes and thousands of bacterial genomes for the evidence of an association between genetic exchanges (or lack thereof) and the presence of a capsule system. We found that bacteria encoding capsules have larger pan-genomes, higher rates of horizontal gene transfer, and higher rates of homologous recombination in their core genomes. Accordingly, genomes encoding capsules have more plasmids, conjugative elements, transposases, prophages, and integrons. Furthermore, capsular loci are frequent in plasmids, and can be found in prophages. These results are valid for Bacteria, independently of their ability to be naturally transformable. Since we have shown previously that capsules are commonly present in nosocomial pathogens, we analysed their co-occurrence with antibiotic resistance genes. Genomes encoding capsules have more antibiotic resistance genes, especially those encoding efflux pumps, and they constitute the majority of the most worrisome nosocomial bacteria. We conclude that bacteria with capsule systems are more genetically diverse and have fast-evolving gene repertoires, which may further contribute to their success in colonizing novel niches such as humans under antibiotic therapy.