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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2011 Sep;35(5):936-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00291.x. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Identification of bacterial plasmids based on mobility and plasmid population biology.

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1
Departamento de Biología Molecular e Instituto de Biomedicina y Biotecnología de Cantabria, Universidad de Cantabria-CSIC-IDICAN, C. Herrera Oria s/n, Santander, Spain.

Abstract

Plasmids contain a backbone of core genes that remains relatively stable for long evolutionary periods, making sense to speak about plasmid species. The identification and characterization of the core genes of a plasmid species has a special relevance in the study of its epidemiology and modes of transmission. Besides, this knowledge will help to unveil the main routes that genes, for example antibiotic resistance (AbR) genes, use to travel from environmental reservoirs to human pathogens. Global dissemination of multiple antibiotic resistances and virulence traits by plasmids is an increasing threat for the treatment of many bacterial infectious diseases. To follow the dissemination of virulence and AbR genes, we need to identify the causative plasmids and follow their path from reservoirs to pathogens. In this review, we discuss how the existing diversity in plasmid genetic structures gives rise to a large diversity in propagation strategies. We would like to propose that, using an identification methodology based on plasmid mobility types, we can follow the propagation routes of most plasmids in Gammaproteobacteria, as well as their cargo genes, in complex ecosystems. Once the dissemination routes are known, designing antidissemination drugs and testing their efficacy will become feasible. We discuss in this review how the existing diversity in plasmid genetic structures gives rise to a large diversity in propagation strategies. We would like to propose that, by using an identification methodology based on plasmid mobility types, we can follow the propagation routes of most plasmids in ?-proteobacteria, as well as their cargo genes, in complex ecosystems.

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