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Microbes Environ. 2012;27(3):263-72. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

Novel conjugative transferable multiple drug resistance plasmid pAQU1 from Photobacterium damselae subsp. damselae isolated from marine aquaculture environment.

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Department of Microbiology, Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine, Mibu, Tochigi 321-0293, Japan.


The emergence of drug-resistant bacteria is a severe problem in aquaculture. The ability of drug resistance genes to transfer from a bacterial cell to another is thought to be responsible for the wide dissemination of these genes in the aquaculture environment; however, little is known about the gene transfer mechanisms in marine bacteria. In this study, we show that a tetracycline-resistant strain of Photobacterium damselae subsp. damselae, isolated from seawater at a coastal aquaculture site in Japan, harbors a novel multiple drug resistance plasmid. This plasmid named pAQU1 can be transferred to Escherichia coli by conjugation. Nucleotide sequencing showed that the plasmid was 204,052 base pairs and contained 235 predicted coding sequences. Annotation showed that pAQU1 did not have known repA, suggesting a new replicon, and contained seven drug resistance genes: bla(CARB-9)-like, floR, mph(A)-like, mef(A)-like, sul2, tet(M) and tet(B). The plasmid has a complete set of genes encoding the apparatus for the type IV secretion system with a unique duplication of traA. Phylogenetic analysis of the deduced amino acid sequence of relaxase encoded by traI in pAQU1 demonstrated that the conjugative transfer system of the plasmid belongs to MOB(H12), a sub-group of the MOB(H) plasmid family, closely related to the IncA/C type of plasmids and SXT/R391 widely distributed among species of Enterobacteriaceae and Vibrionaceae. Our data suggest that conjugative transfer is involved in horizontal gene transfer among marine bacteria and provide useful insights into the molecular basis for the dissemination of drug resistance genes among bacteria in the aquaculture environment.

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