Class I integron with a group II intron detected in an Escherichia coli strain from a free-range reindeer.
ABSTRACT: An Escherichia coli strain, isolated from wild reindeer in a remote mountain area, contained a class 1 integron with two unusual features: a group II intron and a cassette with homology to a superintegron cassette. Alignments indicate that attC sites of gene cassettes may be insertion sites for introns.
Project description:Integrons play a major role in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes among Gram-negative pathogens. Integron gene cassettes form circular intermediates carrying a recombination site, attC, and insert into an integron platform at a second site, attI, in a reaction catalyzed by an integron-specific integrase IntI. The IntI1 integron integrase preferentially binds to the 'bottom strand' of single-stranded attC. We have addressed the insertion mechanism in vivo using a recombination assay exploiting plasmid conjugation to exclusively deliver either the top or bottom strand of different integrase recombination substrates. Recombination of a single-stranded attC site with an attI site was 1000-fold higher for one strand than for the other. Conversely, following conjugative transfer of either attI strand, recombination with attC is highly unfavorable. These results and those obtained using mutations within a putative attC stem-and-loop strongly support a novel integron cassette insertion model in which the single bottom attC strand adopts a folded structure generating a double strand recombination site. Thus, recombination would insert a single strand cassette, which must be subsequently processed.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Integrons are genetic elements able to integrate and disseminate genes as cassettes by a site-specific recombination mechanism. These elements contain a gene coding for an integrase that carries out recombination by interacting with two different target sites; the attI site in cis with the integrase and the palindromic attC site of a gene cassette. Integron integrases (IntIs) bind specifically to the bottom strand of attC sites. The extrahelical bases resulting from folding of attC bottom strands are important for the recognition by integrases. These enzymes are directly involved in the accumulation and formation of new cassette arrangements in the variable region of integrons. Thus, it is important to better understand interactions between IntIs and their substrates. RESULTS:We compared the ability of five IntIs to carry out excision of several cassettes flanked by different attC sites. The results showed that for most cassettes, IntI1 was the most active integrase. However, IntI2*179E and SonIntIA could easily excise cassettes containing the attCdfrA1 site located upstream, whereas IntI1 and IntI3 had only a weak excision activity for these cassettes. Analysis of the secondary structure adopted by the bottom strand of attCdfrA1 has shown that the identity of the extrahelical bases and the distance between them (A-N7-8-C) differ from those of attCs contained in the cassettes most easily excisable by IntI1 (T-N6-G). We used the attCdfrA1 site upstream of the sat2 gene cassette as a template and varied the identity and spacing between the extrahelical bases in order to determine how these modifications influence the ability of IntI1, IntI2*179E, IntI3 and SonIntIA to excise cassettes. Our results show that IntI1 is more efficient in cassette excision using T-N6-G or T-N6-C attCs while IntI3 recognizes only a limited range of attCs. IntI2*179E and SonIntIA are more tolerant of changes to the identity and spacing of extrahelical bases. CONCLUSIONS:This study provides new insights into the factors that influence the efficiency of cassette excision by integron integrases. It also suggests that IntI2 and SonIntIA have an evolutionary path that is different from IntI1 and IntI3, in their ability to recognize and excise cassettes.
Project description:The integron is a bacterial recombination system that allows acquisition, stockpiling and expression of cassettes carrying protein-coding sequences, and is responsible for the emergence and rise of multiresistance in Gram-negative bacteria. The functionality of this system depends on the insertion of promoterless cassettes in correct orientation, allowing their expression from the promoter located upstream of the cassette array. Correct orientation is ensured by strand selectivity of integron integrases for the bottom strand of cassette recombination sites (attC), recombined in form of folded single-stranded hairpins. Here, we investigated the basis of such strand selectivity by comparing recombination of wild-type and mutated attC sites with different lengths, sequences and structures. We show that all three unpaired structural features that distinguish the bottom and top strands contribute to strand selectivity. The localization of Extra-Helical Bases (EHBs) directly favors integrase binding to the bottom strand. The Unpaired Central Spacer (UCS) and the Variable Terminal Structure (VTS) influence strand selectivity indirectly, probably through the stabilization of the bottom strand and the resulting synapse due to the nucleotide skew between the two strands. These results underscore the importance of the single-stranded nature of the attC site that allows such tight control over integron cassette orientation.
Project description:We analyzed the role of integrons in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance in a recent multiresistant clinical isolate, Serratia marcescens SCH88050909 (SCH909). This isolate harbors three integrons, all on a 60-kb conjugative plasmid. By PCR, hybridization, and sequencing analyses, we found that integron 1 has the dfrA1 and ant(3")-Ia cassettes. The first cassette in integron 2 contains the ant(2")-Ia gene, separated from its attC site (59-base element) by a 1,971-bp insert containing a group II intron; this intron codes for a putative maturase-reverse transcriptase on the complementary strand and is the first such intron to be found associated with an integron. The attC site is followed by a novel aminoglycoside resistance gene, ant(3")-Ii-aac(6')-IId, which has been characterized for its bifunctional ANT(3")-I and AAC(6')-II activities. DNA sequence analysis of this fused cassette suggests that insertion and excision due to the integrase activity could have an important role in the evolution of aminoglycoside resistance genes. This gene is followed by an unknown open reading frame with a typical attC site and a partial cassette composed of the beginning of the bla(OXA-10) cassette interrupted by IS1. The sequence downstream of IS1 revealed that the bla(OXA-10) cassette is incomplete and that the 3' conserved segment of this integron is absent. Integron 3 is in a Tn1696-like transposon with the aac(3)-Ia cassette followed by three unknown cassettes and ant(3")-Ia. The presence of the group II intron and the relationship of group II introns in eubacteria with mobile elements suggest a possible role of this element in events such as cassette formation and/or plasmid evolution.
Project description:The 72 Escherichia coli strains of the ECOR collection were examined for resistance to 10 different antimicrobial agents including ampicillin, tetracycline, mercury, trimethoprim, and sulfonamides. Eighteen strains were resistant to at least one of the antibiotics tested, and nearly 20% (14 of 72) were resistant to two or more. Several of the resistance determinants were shown to be carried on conjugative elements. The collection was screened for the presence of the three classes of integrons and for the sul1 gene, which is generally associated with class 1 integrons. The four strains found to carry a class 1 integron also had Tn21-encoded mercury resistance. One of the integrons encoded a novel streptomycin resistance gene, aadA7, with an attC site (or 59-base element) nearly identical to the attC site associated with the qacF gene cassette found in In40 (M.-C. Ploy, P. Courvalin, and T. Lambert, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 42:2557-2563, 1998). The conservation of associated attC sites among unrelated resistance cassettes is similar to arrangements found in the Vibrio cholerae superintegrons (D. Mazel, B. Dychinco, V. A. Webb, and J. Davies, Science 280:605-608, 1998) and supports the hypothesis that resistance cassettes are picked up from superintegron pools and independently assembled from unrelated genes and related attC sites.
Project description:A potential role of group IIC-attC introns in integron gene cassette formation, that is, the way in which they could provide the attC sequence essential for recombination, has been proposed. Group IIC introns usually target the attC site of gene cassettes and more specifically their inverse core. Here we characterized a novel group IIC intron targeting the core site of the aadA1 gene cassette attC site (aadA1-qacEΔ1 gene cassette junction) from enterobacterial isolates. Intron mobility (retrohoming) was analyzed using a two-plasmid assay performed in Escherichia coli. Intron mobility assays confirmed the mobilization-integration of the group II intron into the core site of the aadA2, bla(VIM-2), bla(CARB-2), aac(6')-Ib, dfrXVb, arr2, cmlA4, and aadB gene cassettes but not into the attI site. This mobility was dependent on maturase activity. Reverse transcriptase PCR showed that this intron was transcriptionally active, and an intermediate circular form was detected by inverse PCR. This element was linked to the bla(VEB-1) extended-spectrum β-lactamase gene in a high number of enterobacterial isolates. A phylogenetic tree showed that the identified element was located in a branch separate from group IIC-attC introns, being an IIC intron possessing the ability to integrate using the core site of the attC sites as target.
Project description:Integrons are mobile genetic elements that can integrate and disseminate genes as cassettes by a site-specific recombination mechanism. Integrons contain an integrase gene (intI) that carries out recombination by interacting with two different target sites; the attI site in cis with the integrase and the palindromic attC site of a cassette. The plasmid-specified IntI1 excises a greater variety of cassettes (principally antibiotic resistance genes), and has greater activity, than chromosomal integrases. The aim of this study was to analyze the capacity of the chromosomal integron integrase SamIntIA of the environmental bacterium Shewanella amazonensis SB2BT to excise various cassettes and to compare the properties of the wild type with those of mutants that substitute consensus residues of active integron integrases. We show that the SamIntIA integrase is very weakly active in the excision of various cassettes but that the V206R, V206K, and V206H substitutions increase its efficiency for the excision of cassettes. Our results also suggest that the cysteine residue in the beta-5 strand is essential to the activity of Shewanella-type integrases, while the cysteine in the beta-4 strand is less important for the excision activity.
Project description:By mobilizing small DNA units, integrons have a major function in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance among bacteria. The acquisition of gene cassettes occurs by recombination between the attI and attC sites catalysed by the IntI1 integron integrase. These recombination reactions use an unconventional mechanism involving a folded single-stranded attC site. We show that cellular bacterial processes delivering ssDNA, such as conjugation and replication, favour proper folding of the attC site. By developing a very sensitive in vivo assay, we also provide evidence that attC sites can recombine as cruciform structures by extrusion from double-stranded DNA. Moreover, we show an influence of DNA superhelicity on attC site extrusion in vitro and in vivo. We show that the proper folding of the attC site depends on both the propensity to form non-recombinogenic structures and the length of their variable terminal structures. These results draw the network of cell processes that regulate integron recombination.
Project description:Integrons are natural expression vectors in which gene cassettes are integrated downstream of a promoter region by a site-specific recombinase. Gene cassettes usually consist of a single gene followed by a recombination site designated attC. A major unanswered question is how a gene becomes associated with an attC site. Here, we investigate the potential role of a specific lineage of group IIC introns, named group IIC-attC, in cassette formation. Group IIC-attC introns preferentially target attC while retaining the ability to target transcriptional terminators. We show using a PCR-based mobility assay with Escherichia coli that the S.ma.I2 intron from the genome of a clinical isolate of Serratia marcescens can target both attC site and putative terminator motifs of resistance genes. Quantitative results showed that S.ma.I2 is more efficient in targeting various attC sequences than three group IIC-attC introns (54 to 64% sequence identity) from the genomes of environmental isolates. We also show that purified group IIC-attC intron-encoded reverse transcriptases have both RNA-dependent and DNA-dependent DNA polymerase activities in vitro. These data permit us to suggest a new model for gene cassette formation, in which a group IIC-attC intron targets separately a transcriptional terminator adjoining a gene and an isolated attC, joins the gene and the attC by homologous recombination, and then splices and reverse transcribes a gene-attC RNA template, leading to the formation of a cassette.
Project description:Integrons are genetic elements that incorporate mobile gene cassettes by site-specific recombination and express them as an operon from a promoter (Pc) located upstream of the cassette insertion site. Most gene cassettes found in integrons contain only one gene followed by an attC recombination site. We have recently shown that a specific lineage of group IIC introns, named group IIC-attC introns, inserts into the bottom strand sequence of attC sites. Here, we show that S.ma.I2, a group IIC-attC intron inserted in an integron cassette array of Serratia marcescens, impedes transcription from Pc while allowing expression of the following antibiotic resistance cassette using an internal outward-oriented promoter (P(out)). Bioinformatic analyses indicate that one or two putative P(out), which have sequence similarities with the Escherichia coli consensus promoters, are conserved in most group IIC-attC intron sequences. We show that P(out) with different versions of the -35 and -10 sequences are functionally active in expressing a promoterless chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (cat) reporter gene in E. coli. P(out) in group IIC-attC introns may therefore play a role in the expression of one or more gene cassettes whose transcription from Pc would otherwise be impeded by insertion of the intron.