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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Oct 8;116(41):20568-20573. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1905878116. Epub 2019 Sep 23.

A marine plasmid hitchhiking vast phylogenetic and geographic distances.

Author information

1
Department of Microbial Ecology and Evolution, Leibniz-Institut DSMZ (Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen) GmbH, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany; joern.petersen@dsmz.de john.vollmers@kit.edu kaster@kit.edu.
2
Institute for Biological Interfaces 5, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, D-76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany; joern.petersen@dsmz.de john.vollmers@kit.edu kaster@kit.edu.
3
Department of Microbial Ecology and Evolution, Leibniz-Institut DSMZ (Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen) GmbH, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany.
4
School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, NR4 7TJ Norwich, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) plays an important role in bacterial evolution and serves as a driving force for bacterial diversity and versatility. HGT events often involve mobile genetic elements like plasmids, which can promote their own dissemination by associating with adaptive traits in the gene pool of the so-called mobilome. Novel traits that evolve through HGT can therefore lead to the exploitation of new ecological niches, prompting an adaptive radiation of bacterial species. In this study, we present phylogenetic, biogeographic, and functional analyses of a previously unrecognized RepL-type plasmid found in diverse members of the marine Roseobacter group across the globe. Noteworthy, 100% identical plasmids were detected in phylogenetically and geographically distant bacteria, revealing a so-far overlooked, but environmentally highly relevant vector for HGT. The genomic and functional characterization of this plasmid showed a completely conserved backbone dedicated to replication, stability, and mobilization as well as an interchangeable gene cassette with highly diverse, but recurring motifs. The majority of the latter appear to be involved in mechanisms coping with toxins and/or pollutants in the marine environment. Furthermore, we provide experimental evidence that the plasmid has the potential to be transmitted across bacterial orders, thereby increasing our understanding of evolution and microbial niche adaptation in the environment.

KEYWORDS:

RepL-type plasmid; Roseobacter group; chromate resistance; horizontal gene transfer

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