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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 Dec;59(12):2044-54.

The role of Bacteroides conjugative transposons in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes.

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Department of Microbiology, 601 S. Goodwin Ave., University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


Investigations into the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance gene transfer utilized by Bacteroides species have led to a greater understanding of how bacteria transfer antibiotic resistance genes, and what environmental stimuli promote such horizontal transfer events. Although Bacteroides spp. harbor a variety of transmissible elements that are involved in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes, it is one particular class of elements, the conjugative transposons, that are responsible for most of the resistance gene transfer in Bacteroides. The potential for Bacteroides conjugative transposons to transfer antibiotic resistance genes extends beyond those genes carried by the conjugative transposon itself, because Bacteroides conjugative transposons are able to mobilize coresident plasmids in trans and in cis, and also stimulate the excision and transfer of unlinked integrated elements called mobilizable transposons. These characteristics of conjugative transposons alone have significant implications for the ecology and spread of antibiotic resistance genes, and in terms of biotechnology. A novel feature of the most widespread family of Bacteroides conjugative transposons, the CTnDOT/ERL family, is that their transfer is stimulated 100- to 1000-fold by low concentrations of tetracycline. This is significant because the use of antibiotics not only selects for resistant Bacteroides strains, but also stimulates their transfer. Other Bacteroides conjugative transposons do not require any induction to stimulate transfer, and hence appear to transfer constitutively. The constitutively transferring elements characterized so far appear to have a broader host range than the CTnDOT/ERL family of conjugative transposons, and the prevalence of these elements is on the increase. Since these constitutively transferring elements do not require induction by antibiotics to stimulate transfer, they have the potential to become as pervasive as the CTnDOT/ERL family of conjugative transposons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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