Fight evolution with evolution: plasmid-dependent phages with a wide host range prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.
ABSTRACT: The emergence of pathogenic bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics is a serious worldwide public health concern. Whenever antibiotics are applied, the genes encoding for antibiotic resistance are selected for within bacterial populations. This has led to the prevalence of conjugative plasmids that carry resistance genes and can transfer themselves between diverse bacterial groups. In this study, we investigated whether it is feasible to attempt to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistances with a lytic bacteriophage, which can replicate in a wide range of gram-negative bacteria harbouring conjugative drug resistance-conferring plasmids. The counter-selection against the plasmid was shown to be effective, reducing the frequency of multidrug-resistant bacteria that formed via horizontal transfer by several orders of magnitude. This was true also in the presence of an antibiotic against which the plasmid provided resistance. Majority of the multiresistant bacteria subjected to phage selection also lost their conjugation capability. Overall this study suggests that, while we are obligated to maintain the selection for the spread of the drug resistances, the 'fight evolution with evolution' approach could help us even out the outcome to our favour.
Project description:The dissemination of multi-resistant bacteria represents an enormous burden on modern healthcare. Plasmid-borne conjugative transfer is the most prevalent mechanism, requiring a type IV secretion system that enables bacteria to spread beneficial traits, such as resistance to last-line antibiotics, among different genera. Inc18 plasmids, like the Gram-positive broad host-range plasmid pIP501, are substantially involved in propagation of vancomycin resistance from Enterococci to methicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Here, we identified the small cytosolic protein TraN as a repressor of the pIP501-encoded conjugative transfer system, since deletion of traN resulted in upregulation of transfer factors, leading to highly enhanced conjugative transfer. Furthermore, we report the complex structure of TraN with DNA and define the exact sequence of its binding motif. Targeting this protein-DNA interaction might represent a novel therapeutic approach against the spreading of antibiotic resistances.
Project description:How sublethal levels of antibiotics and heavy metals select for clinically important multidrug resistance plasmids is largely unknown. Carriage of plasmids generally confers substantial fitness costs, implying that for the plasmid-carrying bacteria to be maintained in the population, the plasmid cost needs to be balanced by a selective pressure conferred by, for example, antibiotics or heavy metals. We studied the effects of low levels of antibiotics and heavy metals on the selective maintenance of a 220-kbp extended-spectrum ?-lactamase (ESBL) plasmid identified in a hospital outbreak of Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli. The concentrations of antibiotics and heavy metals required to maintain plasmid-carrying bacteria, the minimal selective concentrations (MSCs), were in all cases below (almost up to 140-fold) the MIC of the plasmid-free susceptible bacteria. This finding indicates that the very low antibiotic and heavy metal levels found in polluted environments and in treated humans and animals might be sufficiently high to maintain multiresistance plasmids. When resistance genes were moved from the plasmid to the chromosome, the MSC decreased, showing that MSC for a specific resistance conditionally depends on genetic context. This finding suggests that a cost-free resistance could be maintained in a population by an infinitesimally low concentration of antibiotic. By studying the effect of combinations of several compounds, it was observed that for certain combinations of drugs each new compound added lowered the minimal selective concentration of the others. This combination effect could be a significant factor in the selection of multidrug resistance plasmids/bacterial clones in complex multidrug environments. Importance: Antibiotic resistance is in many pathogenic bacteria caused by genes that are carried on large conjugative plasmids. These plasmids typically contain multiple antibiotic resistance genes as well as genes that confer resistance to biocides and heavy metals. In this report, we show that very low concentrations of single antibiotics and heavy metals or combinations of compounds can select for a large plasmid that carries resistance to aminoglycosides, ?-lactams, tetracycline, macrolides, trimethoprim, sulfonamide, silver, copper, and arsenic. Our findings suggest that the low levels of antibiotics and heavy metals present in polluted external environments and in treated animals and humans could allow for selection and enrichment of bacteria with multiresistance plasmids and thereby contribute to the emergence, maintenance, and transmission of antibiotic-resistant disease-causing bacteria.
Project description:Mobile genetic elements such as conjugative plasmids are responsible for antibiotic resistance phenotypes in many bacterial pathogens. The ability to conjugate, the presence of antibiotics, and ecological interactions all have a notable role in the persistence of plasmids in bacterial populations. Here, we set out to investigate the contribution of these factors when the conjugation network was disturbed by a plasmid-dependent bacteriophage. Phage alone effectively caused the population to lose plasmids, thus rendering them susceptible to antibiotics. Leakiness of the antibiotic resistance mechanism allowing Black Queen evolution (i.e. a "race to the bottom") was a more significant factor than the antibiotic concentration (lethal vs sublethal) in determining plasmid prevalence. Interestingly, plasmid loss was also prevented by protozoan predation. These results show that outcomes of attempts to resensitize bacterial communities by disrupting the conjugation network are highly dependent on ecological factors and resistance mechanisms. IMPORTANCE Bacterial antibiotic resistance is often a part of mobile genetic elements that move from one bacterium to another. By interfering with the horizontal movement and the maintenance of these elements, it is possible to remove the resistance from the population. Here, we show that a so-called plasmid-dependent bacteriophage causes the initially resistant bacterial population to become susceptible to antibiotics. However, this effect is efficiently countered when the system also contains a predator that feeds on bacteria. Moreover, when the environment contains antibiotics, the survival of resistance is dependent on the resistance mechanism. When bacteria can help their contemporaries to degrade antibiotics, resistance is maintained by only a fraction of the community. On the other hand, when bacteria cannot help others, then all bacteria remain resistant. The concentration of the antibiotic played a less notable role than the antibiotic used. This report shows that the survival of antibiotic resistance in bacterial communities represents a complex process where many factors present in real-life systems define whether or not resistance is actually lost.
Project description:The increase of infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria, together with the loss of effectiveness of currently available antibiotics, represents one of the most serious threats to public health worldwide. The loss of human lives and the economic costs associated to the problem of the dissemination of antibiotic resistance require immediate action. Bacteria, known by their great genetic plasticity, are capable not only of mutating their genes to adapt to disturbances and environmental changes but also of acquiring new genes that allow them to survive in hostile environments, such as in the presence of antibiotics. One of the major mechanisms responsible for the horizontal acquisition of new genes (e.g., antibiotic resistance genes) is bacterial conjugation, a process mediated by mobile genetic elements such as conjugative plasmids and integrative conjugative elements. Conjugative plasmids harboring antibiotic resistance genes can be transferred from a donor to a recipient bacterium in a process that requires physical contact. After conjugation, the recipient bacterium not only harbors the antibiotic resistance genes but it can also transfer the acquired plasmid to other bacteria, thus contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance. Conjugative plasmids have genes that encode all the proteins necessary for the conjugation to take place, such as the type IV coupling proteins (T4CPs) present in all conjugative plasmids. Type VI coupling proteins constitute a heterogeneous family of hexameric ATPases that use energy from the ATP hydrolysis for plasmid transfer. Taking into account their essential role in bacterial conjugation, T4CPs are attractive targets for the inhibition of bacterial conjugation and, concomitantly, the limitation of antibiotic resistance dissemination. This review aims to compile present knowledge on T4CPs as a starting point for delving into their molecular structure and functioning in future studies. Likewise, the scientific literature on bacterial conjugation inhibitors has been reviewed here, in an attempt to elucidate the possibility of designing T4CP-inhibitors as a potential solution to the dissemination of multidrug-resistant bacteria.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Bacteriophages are a major cause of bacterial mortality and impose strong selection on natural bacterial populations, yet their effects on the dynamics of conjugative plasmids have rarely been tested. We combined experimental evolution, mathematical modeling, and individual-based simulations to explain how the ecological and population genetics effects of bacteriophages upon bacteria interact to determine the dynamics of conjugative plasmids and their persistence. The ecological effects of bacteriophages on bacteria are predicted to limit the existence conditions for conjugative plasmids, preventing persistence under weak selection for plasmid accessory traits. Experiments showed that phages drove faster extinction of plasmids in environments where the plasmid conferred no benefit, but they also revealed more complex effects of phages on plasmid dynamics under these conditions, specifically, the temporary maintenance of plasmids at fixation followed by rapid loss. We hypothesized that the population genetic effects of bacteriophages, specifically, selection for phage resistance mutations, may have caused this. Further mathematical modeling and individual-based simulations supported our hypothesis, showing that conjugative plasmids may hitchhike with phage resistance mutations in the bacterial chromosome. IMPORTANCE:Conjugative plasmids are infectious loops of DNA capable of transmitting DNA between bacterial cells and between species. Because plasmids often carry extra genes that allow bacteria to live in otherwise-inhospitable environments, their dynamics are central to understanding bacterial adaptive evolution. The plasmid-bacterium interaction has typically been studied in isolation, but in natural bacterial communities, bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, are ubiquitous. Using experiments, mathematical models, and computer simulations we show that bacteriophages drive plasmid dynamics through their ecological and evolutionary effects on bacteria and ultimately limit the conditions allowing plasmid existence. These results advance our understanding of bacterial adaptation and show that bacteriophages could be used to select against plasmids carrying undesirable traits, such as antibiotic resistance.
Project description:Antibiotic resistance increases the likelihood of death from infection by common pathogens such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae in developed and developing countries alike. Most important modern antibiotic resistance genes spread between such species on self-transmissible (conjugative) plasmids. These plasmids are traditionally grouped on the basis of replicon incompatibility (Inc), which prevents coexistence of related plasmids in the same cell. These plasmids also use post-segregational killing ('addiction') systems, which poison any bacterial cells that lose the addictive plasmid, to guarantee their own survival. This study demonstrates that plasmid incompatibilities and addiction systems can be exploited to achieve the safe and complete eradication of antibiotic resistance from bacteria in vitro and in the mouse gut. Conjugative 'interference plasmids' were constructed by specifically deleting toxin and antibiotic resistance genes from target plasmids. These interference plasmids efficiently cured the corresponding antibiotic resistant target plasmid from different Enterobacteriaceae in vitro and restored antibiotic susceptibility in vivo to all bacterial populations into which plasmid-mediated resistance had spread. This approach might allow eradication of emergent or established populations of resistance plasmids in individuals at risk of severe sepsis, enabling subsequent use of less toxic and/or more effective antibiotics than would otherwise be possible, if sepsis develops. The generalisability of this approach and its potential applications in bioremediation of animal and environmental microbiomes should now be systematically explored.
Project description:Conjugative plasmids of the A/C incompatibility group (IncA/C) have become substantial players in the dissemination of multidrug resistance. These large conjugative plasmids are characterized by their broad host-range, extended spectrum of antimicrobials resistance, and prevalence in enteric bacteria recovered from both environmental and clinical settings. Until recently, relatively little was known about the basic biology of IncA/C plasmids, mostly because of the hindrance of multidrug resistance for molecular biology experiments. To circumvent this issue, we previously developed pVCR94?X, a convenient prototype that codes for a reduced set of antibiotic resistances. Using pVCR94?X, we then characterized the regulatory pathway governing IncA/C plasmid dissemination. We found that the expression of roughly 2 thirds of the genes encoded by this plasmid, including large operons involved in the conjugation process, depends on an FlhCD-like master activator called AcaCD. Beyond the mobility of IncA/C plasmids, AcaCD was also shown to play a key role in the mobilization of different classes of genomic islands (GIs) identified in various pathogenic bacteria. By doing so, IncA/C plasmids can have a considerable impact on bacterial genomes plasticity and evolution.
Project description:Multidrug resistance (MDR) of pathogens is an ongoing public health crisis exacerbated by the horizontal transfer of antibiotic resistance genes via conjugative plasmids. Factors that stabilize these plasmids in bacterial communities contribute to an even higher incidence of MDR, given the increased likelihood that a host will already contain a plasmid when it acquires another through conjugation. Here, we show one such stabilizing factor is host-plasmid coevolution under antibiotic selection, which facilitated the emergence of MDR via two distinct plasmids in communities consisting of Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae once antibiotics were removed. In our system, evolution promoted greater stability of a plasmid in its coevolved host. Further, pleiotropic effects resulted in greater plasmid persistence in both novel host-plasmid combinations and, in some cases, multi-plasmid hosts. This evolved stability favoured the generation of MDR cells and thwarted their loss within communities with multiple plasmids. By selecting for plasmid persistence, the application of antibiotics may promote MDR well after their original period of use.
Project description:Antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria is a continual threat to human health, often residing in extrachromosomal plasmid DNA. Plasmids of the pT181 family are widespread and confer various antibiotic resistances to Staphylococcus aureus. They replicate via a rolling circle mechanism that requires a multi-functional, plasmid-encoded replication protein to initiate replication, recruit a helicase to the site of initiation and terminate replication after DNA synthesis is complete. We present the first atomic resolution structures of three such replication proteins that reveal distinct, functionally relevant conformations. The proteins possess a unique active site and have been shown to contain a catalytically essential metal ion that is bound in a manner distinct from that of any other rolling circle replication proteins. These structures are the first examples of the Rep_trans Pfam family providing insights into the replication of numerous antibiotic resistance plasmids from Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative phage and the mobilisation of DNA by conjugative transposons.
Project description:Horizontal gene transfer by conjugative plasmids plays a critical role in the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Interactions between bacteria and other organisms can affect the persistence and spread of conjugative plasmids. Here we show that protozoan predation increased the persistence and spread of the antibiotic resistance plasmid RP4 in populations of the opportunist bacterial pathogen Serratia marcescens. A conjugation-defective mutant plasmid was unable to survive under predation, suggesting that conjugative transfer is required for plasmid persistence under the realistic condition of predation. These results indicate that multi-trophic interactions can affect the maintenance of conjugative plasmids with implications for bacterial evolution and the spread of antibiotic resistance genes.