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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1994 Sep;60(9):3255-60.

Evidence for natural horizontal transfer of tetQ between bacteria that normally colonize humans and bacteria that normally colonize livestock.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801.


Though numerous studies have shown that gene transfer occurs between distantly related bacterial genera under laboratory conditions, the frequency and breadth of horizontal transfer events in nature remain unknown. Previous evidence for natural intergeneric transfers came from studies of genes in human pathogens, bacteria that colonize the same host. We present evidence that natural transfer of a tetracycline resistance gene, tetQ, has occurred between bacterial genera that normally colonize different hosts. A DNA sequence comparative approach was taken to examine the extent of horizontal tetQ dissemination between species of Bacteroides, the predominant genus of the human colonic microflora, and between species of Bacteroides and of the distantly related genus Prevotella, a predominant genus of the microflora of the rumens and intestinal tracts of farm animals. Virtually identical tetQ sequences were found in a number of isolate pairs differing in taxonomy and geographic origin, indicating that extensive natural gene transmission has occurred. Among the exchange events indicated by the evidence was the very recent transfer of an allele of tetQ usually found in Prevotella spp. to a Bacteroides fragilis strain.

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