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Clonal expansion of environmentally-adapted Escherichia coli contributes to propagation of antibiotic resistance genes in beef cattle feedlots

Tymensen, Lisa, Zaheer, Rahat, Cook, Shaun R., Amoako, Kingsley K., Goji, Noriko, Read, Ron, Booker, Calvin W., Hannon, Sherry J., Neumann, Norman, McAllister, Tim A.
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.637-638 pp. 657-664
Escherichia coli, alleles, amino acid sequences, antibiotic resistance genes, beef cattle, beta-lactamase, cephalosporins, feces, feedlots, genetic engineering, genetic recombination, genetic variation, genomics, loss-of-function mutation, phylogeny, sequence analysis, stress response, stress tolerance, wastewater
Livestock wastewater lagoons represent important environmental reservoirs of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), although factors contributing to their proliferation within these reservoirs remain poorly understood. Here, we characterized Escherichia coli from feedlot cattle feces and associated wastewater lagoons using CRISPR1 subtyping, and demonstrated that while generic E. coli were genetically diverse, populations were dominated by several ‘feedlot-adapted’ CRISPR types (CTs) that were widely distributed throughout the feedlot. Moreover, E. coli bearing beta-lactamase genes, which confer reduced susceptibility to third-generation cephalosporin's, predominantly belonged to these feedlot-adapted CTs. Remarkably, the genomic region containing the CRISPR1 allele was more frequently subject to genetic exchange among wastewater isolates compared to fecal isolates, implicating this region in environmental adaptation. This allele is proximal to the mutS-rpoS-nlpD region, which is involved in regulating recombination barriers and adaptive stress responses. There were no loss-of-function mutS or rpoS mutations or beneficial accessory genes present within the mutS-rpoS-nlpD region that would account for increased environmental fitness among feedlot-adapted isolates. However, comparative sequence analysis revealed that protein sequences within this region were conserved among most feedlot-adapted CTs, but not transient fecal CTs, and did not reflect phylogenetic relatedness, implying that adaptation to wastewater environments may be associated with genetic variation related to stress resistance. Collectively, our findings suggest adaptation of E. coli to feedlot environments may contribute to propagation of ARGs in wastewater lagoons.