Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

The Impact of Mercury Selection and Conjugative Genetic Elements on Community Structure and Resistance Gene Transfer

List of Authors: Hall JPJ, Harrison E, Parnanen K, Virta M, Brockhurst MA


Publication year: 2020

Journal: Frontiers in Microbiology

Journal name in source: FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY

Journal acronym: FRONT MICROBIOL

Volume number: 11

Number of pages: 14

ISSN: 1664-302X


Carriage of resistance genes can underpin bacterial survival, and by spreading these genes between species, mobile genetic elements (MGEs) can potentially protect diversity within microbial communities. The spread of MGEs could be affected by environmental factors such as selection for resistance, and biological factors such as plasmid host range, with consequences for individual species and for community structure. Here we cultured a focal bacterial strain,Pseudomonas fluorescensSBW25, embedded within a soil microbial community, with and without mercury selection, and with and without mercury resistance plasmids (pQBR57 or pQBR103), to investigate the effects of selection and resistance gene introduction on (1) the focal species; (2) the community as a whole; (3) the spread of the introducedmerresistance operon. We found thatP. fluorescensSBW25 only escaped competitive exclusion by other members of community under mercury selection, even when it did not begin with a mercury resistance plasmid, due to its propensity to acquire resistance from the community by horizontal gene transfer. Mercury pollution had a significant effect on community structure, decreasing alpha diversity within communities while increasing beta diversity between communities, a pattern that was not affected by the introduction of mercury resistance plasmids byP. fluorescensSBW25. Nevertheless, the introducedmerAgene spread to a phylogenetically diverse set of recipients over the 5 weeks of the experiment, as assessed by epicPCR. Our data demonstrates how the effects of MGEs can be experimentally assessed for individual lineages, the wider community, and for the spread of adaptive traits.

Last updated on 2022-17-01 at 11:12