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ISME J. 2015 Jun;9(6):1269-79. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.226. Epub 2014 Dec 12.

Using the class 1 integron-integrase gene as a proxy for anthropogenic pollution.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Genes to Geoscience Research Centre, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
2
European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, UK.
3
Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA.
4
Institute for Epidemiology and Pathogen Diagnostics, Julius Kühn-Institut, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Braunschweig, Germany.
5
Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.
6
Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen, China.

Abstract

Around all human activity, there are zones of pollution with pesticides, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and the microorganisms associated with human waste streams and agriculture. This diversity of pollutants, whose concentration varies spatially and temporally, is a major challenge for monitoring. Here, we suggest that the relative abundance of the clinical class 1 integron-integrase gene, intI1, is a good proxy for pollution because: (1) intI1 is linked to genes conferring resistance to antibiotics, disinfectants and heavy metals; (2) it is found in a wide variety of pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria; (3) its abundance can change rapidly because its host cells can have rapid generation times and it can move between bacteria by horizontal gene transfer; and (4) a single DNA sequence variant of intI1 is now found on a wide diversity of xenogenetic elements, these being complex mosaic DNA elements fixed through the agency of human selection. Here we review the literature examining the relationship between anthropogenic impacts and the abundance of intI1, and outline an approach by which intI1 could serve as a proxy for anthropogenic pollution.

PMID:
25500508
PMCID:
PMC4438328
DOI:
10.1038/ismej.2014.226
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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