Chapter 3 : Natural and Artificial Strategies to Control the Conjugative Transmission of Plasmids

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Antibiotics have saved the lives of countless people suffering from bacterial infections since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 ( ). Nevertheless, this success was accompanied by the emergence of antibiotic resistance (AbR). It is thought that AbR arose originally as a self-protection mechanism of producer organisms ( ). AbR genes rapidly disseminated through the biosphere as a result of the selection pressure established by human application of antibiotics ( ). Resistance mechanisms capable of rendering newly discovered drugs ineffective emerged with astonishing speed, rapidly reaching human pathogens and increasingly invalidating newer antimicrobial therapies ( ). Altogether, >20,000 potential resistance genes of nearly 400 types have been predicted from bacterial genome sequences ( ). The danger created by the ever-increasing number of pathogens resistant to conventional antibiotics is further increased by a significant drop in the development of new antimicrobial compounds ( ). This situation demands solutions to prevent the hundreds of thousands of people dying each year as a result of AbR from becoming millions ( ). Proposed strategies include more-accurate prescription policies and a controlled use and release of antibiotics in animal husbandry and agriculture, restrictions difficult to implement on a global scale ( ).

Citation: Getino M, de la Cruz F. 2019. Natural and Artificial Strategies to Control the Conjugative Transmission of Plasmids, p 33-64. In Baquero F, Bouza E, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J, Coque T (ed), Microbial Transmission. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MTBP-0015-2016
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Figure 1

DNA processing during bacterial conjugation. (1) The relaxase (R) cleaves plasmid DNA at the site and forms a covalent intermediate with the 5′ end of the . (2) The T4SS protein machinery recruits the relaxosome through interaction with the T4CP, while the donor DNA is replicated using the uncleaved DNA strand as a template. (3) The relaxase releases the T-strand by a second cleavage reaction at the site and acts as pilot protein for the ssDNA to be transferred through the T4SS, helped by the T4CP pumping activity. (4) In the recipient cell, the relaxase carries out the reverse nicking reaction to recircularize the T-strand. (5) The transferred ssDNA is replicated to generate a complete copy of the original plasmid.

Citation: Getino M, de la Cruz F. 2019. Natural and Artificial Strategies to Control the Conjugative Transmission of Plasmids, p 33-64. In Baquero F, Bouza E, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J, Coque T (ed), Microbial Transmission. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MTBP-0015-2016
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Figure 2

Natural and artificial mechanisms that control the transmission of conjugative plasmids. Natural mechanisms include RM and CRISPR-Cas systems (encoded by the recipient chromosome), exclusion systems (used to prevent the entrance of related plasmids in the same recipient), and fertility inhibition systems (encoded by plasmids in donor bacteria). Artificial mechanisms interfere with key components of the conjugative process, such as the relaxase, the pilus, or conjugation-related ATPases.

Citation: Getino M, de la Cruz F. 2019. Natural and Artificial Strategies to Control the Conjugative Transmission of Plasmids, p 33-64. In Baquero F, Bouza E, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J, Coque T (ed), Microbial Transmission. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MTBP-0015-2016
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Figure 3

Network of interactions between conjugative plasmids that affects their conjugation capacity. Plasmid incompatibility groups are represented by colored circles. Continuous lines show fertility inhibition systems caused by genes in colored rectangles from plasmids in white boxes. Dashed lines show fertility inhibition systems caused by unidentified genes from plasmids in white boxes. See text for further details.

Citation: Getino M, de la Cruz F. 2019. Natural and Artificial Strategies to Control the Conjugative Transmission of Plasmids, p 33-64. In Baquero F, Bouza E, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J, Coque T (ed), Microbial Transmission. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MTBP-0015-2016
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Figure 4

Artificial inhibitors of donor-recipient contact (pilus blockers). The tranquilizer chlorpromazine prevents plasmid conjugation and phage infection, possibly by modifying membrane topology. Male-specific bacteriophages bind the pilus tip through their pIII protein, blocking MPF and biofilm formation. Antibodies against conjugative pilus inhibit conjugation of specific plasmids. Zn in the mating medium blocks F pilus contact with Zn-containing receptor sites. Colloidal clay forms a coating on bacterial cells preventing liquid mating, phage infection, and predation. The opioid levallorphan inhibits MPF and adsorption of male-specific bacteriophages, probably by damaging pilus or bacterial membrane. Sodium periodate alters F pili, inhibiting donor fertility and bacteriophage infection. See the section on pilus blockers in the text for additional information.

Citation: Getino M, de la Cruz F. 2019. Natural and Artificial Strategies to Control the Conjugative Transmission of Plasmids, p 33-64. In Baquero F, Bouza E, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J, Coque T (ed), Microbial Transmission. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MTBP-0015-2016
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