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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2007 Mar;59(3):738-48. Epub 2006 Oct 24.

Frequent conjugative transfer accelerates adaptation of a broad-host-range plasmid to an unfavorable Pseudomonas putida host.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho 83844-3051, USA.


IncP-1 plasmids are known to be promiscuous, but it is not understood if they are equally well adapted to various species within their host range. Moreover, little is known about their fate in bacterial communities. We determined if the IncP-1beta plasmid pB10 was unstable in some Proteobacteria, and whether plasmid stability was enhanced after long-term carriage in a single host and when regularly switched between isogenic hosts. Plasmid pB10 was found to be very unstable in Pseudomonas putida H2, and conferred a high cost (c. 20% decrease in fitness relative to the plasmid-free host). H2(pB10) was then evolved under conditions that selected for plasmid maintenance, with or without regular plasmid transfer (host-switching). When tested in the ancestral host, the evolved plasmids were more stable and their cost was significantly reduced (9% and 16% for plasmids from host-switched and nonswitched lineages, respectively). Our findings suggest that IncP-1 plasmids can rapidly adapt to an unfavorable host by improving their overall stability, and that regular conjugative transfer accelerates this process.

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