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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2011 Sep;35(5):912-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00294.x. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Combinatorial events of insertion sequences and ICE in Gram-negative bacteria.

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Department of Infection, Immunity and Biochemistry, Cardiff University, Heath Hospital, Heath Park Campus, Cardiff, UK.


The emergence of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance in Gram-negative bacteria is incremental and linked to genetic elements that function in a so-called 'one-ended transposition' manner, including ISEcp1, ISCR elements and Tn3-like transposons. The power of these elements lies in their inability to consistently recognize one of their own terminal sequences, while recognizing more genetically distant surrogate sequences. This has the effect of mobilizing the DNA sequence found adjacent to their initial location. In general, resistance in Gram-negatives is closely linked to a few one-off events. These include the capture of the class 1 integron by a Tn5090-like transposon; the formation of the 3' conserved segment (3'-CS); and the fusion of the ISCR1 element to the 3'-CS. The structures formed by these rare events have been massively amplified and disseminated in Gram-negative bacteria, but hitherto, are rarely found in Gram-positives. Such events dominate current resistance gene acquisition and are instrumental in the construction of large resistance gene islands on chromosomes and plasmids. Similar combinatorial events appear to have occurred between conjugative plasmids and phages constructing hybrid elements called integrative and conjugative elements or conjugative transposons. These elements are beginning to be closely linked to some of the more powerful resistance mechanisms such as the extended spectrum β-lactamases, metallo- and AmpC type β-lactamases. Antibiotic resistance in Gram-negative bacteria is dominated by unusual combinatorial mistakes of Insertion sequences and gene fusions which have been selected and amplified by antibiotic pressure enabling the formation of extended resistance islands.

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