Permissiveness of soil microbial communities towards broad host range plasmids
Thesis or dissertation
Technical University of Denmark
Horizontal transfer of mobile genetic elements facilitates adaptive and evolutionary processes in bacteria. Among the known mobile genetic elements, plasmids can confer their hosts with accessory adaptive traits, such as antibiotic or heavy metal resistances, or additional metabolic pathways. Plasmids are implicated in the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance and the emergence of multi-resistant pathogenic bacteria, making it crucial to be able to quantify, understand, and, ideally, control plasmid transfer in mixed microbial communities. The fate of plasmids in microbial communities and the extent of bacterial phyla permissive towards plasmid receipt are largely unknown. Historically, methods exploring the underlying genetic and environmental factors of plasmid transfer have been heavily reliant on cultivation and expression of plasmid encoded phenotypes. This has provided an incomplete and potentially cultivation biased image of the extent of plasmid transfer. In this thesis, I investigated the extent of plasmid transfer in microbial communities at an unprecedented level of resolution and not reliant on cultivation. I focused on soil microbial communities. Their potential role as a reservoir for plasmids carrying antibiotic resistance genes is increasingly suspected to majorly contribute to the emergence of multi-resistant pathogens. More specifically, I examined what fraction of a soil microbial community is permissive to plasmids, identified the phylogenetic identity of this fraction and studied environmental factors that modulate plasmid transfer in soil microbial communities.
PhD Thesis, June 2015, DTU Environment Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark