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Conjugative and replicative biology of the Staphylococcus aureus antimicrobial resistance plasmid, pC02

LaBreck, Patrick T., Li, Zhaozhang, Gibbons, Kevin P., Merrell, D. Scott
Plasmid 2019 v.102 pp. 71-82
Staphylococcus aureus, antibiotic resistance, antibiotic resistance genes, antiseptics, bacteria, chlorhexidine, droplets, hospitals, multiple drug resistance, plasmids, polymerase chain reaction, sequence analysis
Genetic transfer among bacteria propels rapid resistance to antibiotics and decreased susceptibility to antiseptics. Staphylococcus aureus is a common culprit of hospital and community acquired infections, and S. aureus plasmids have been shown to carry a multitude of antimicrobial resistance genes. We previously identified a novel conjugative, multidrug resistance plasmid, pC02, from the clinical S. aureus isolate C02. This plasmid contained the chlorhexidine resistance gene qacA, and we were able to demonstrate that conjugative transfer of pC02 imparted decreased chlorhexidine susceptibility to recipient strains. In silico sequence analysis of pC02 suggested that the plasmid is part of the pWBG749-family of conjugative plasmids and that it contains three predicted origins of transfer (oriT), two of which we showed were functional and could mediate plasmid transfer. Furthermore, depending on which oriT was utilized, partial transfer of pC02 was consistently observed. To define the ability of the pC02 plasmid to utilize different oriT sequences, we examined the mobilization ability of nonconjugative plasmid variants that were engineered to contain a variety of oriT family inserts. The oriT-OTUNa family was transferred at the highest frequency; additional oriT families were also transferred but at lower frequencies. Plasmid stability was examined, and the copy number of pC02 was defined using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR). pC02 was stably maintained at approximately 4 copies per cell. Given the conjugative plasticity of pC02, we speculate that this plasmid could contribute to the spread of antimicrobial resistance across Staphylococcal strains and species.