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PLoS Genet. 2014 Oct 23;10(10):e1004714. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004714. eCollection 2014 Oct.

The master activator of IncA/C conjugative plasmids stimulates genomic islands and multidrug resistance dissemination.

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Laboratory of bacterial molecular genetics, Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada.
Laboratory of microbial systems and synthetic biology, Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada.
Laboratory of bacterial molecular genetics, Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada; CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Marine Bio-resources and Ecology, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China.


Dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes occurs mostly by conjugation, which mediates DNA transfer between cells in direct contact. Conjugative plasmids of the IncA/C incompatibility group have become a substantial threat due to their broad host-range, the extended spectrum of antimicrobial resistance they confer, their prevalence in enteric bacteria and their very efficient spread by conjugation. However, their biology remains largely unexplored. Using the IncA/C conjugative plasmid pVCR94ΔX as a prototype, we have investigated the regulatory circuitry that governs IncA/C plasmids dissemination and found that the transcriptional activator complex AcaCD is essential for the expression of plasmid transfer genes. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with exonuclease digestion (ChIP-exo) and RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) approaches, we have identified the sequences recognized by AcaCD and characterized the AcaCD regulon. Data mining using the DNA motif recognized by AcaCD revealed potential AcaCD-binding sites upstream of genes involved in the intracellular mobility functions (recombination directionality factor and mobilization genes) in two widespread classes of genomic islands (GIs) phylogenetically unrelated to IncA/C plasmids. The first class, SGI1, confers and propagates multidrug resistance in Salmonella enterica and Proteus mirabilis, whereas MGIVmi1 in Vibrio mimicus belongs to a previously uncharacterized class of GIs. We have demonstrated that through expression of AcaCD, IncA/C plasmids specifically trigger the excision and mobilization of the GIs at high frequencies. This study provides new evidence of the considerable impact of IncA/C plasmids on bacterial genome plasticity through their own mobility and the mobilization of genomic islands.

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