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Analysis of two B/O plasmids, R805a from 1972 and pCERC6 from 2008, reveals extensive mosaicism in B/O plasmid backbones

Moran, Robert A., Richardson, Isabella A., Hall, Ruth M.
Plasmid 2019 v.102 pp. 62-70
Escherichia coli, Salmonella Typhi, adults, alleles, ampicillin, antibiotic resistance genes, enzymes, kanamycin, plasmids, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, typhoid fever, Mexico
Two B/O plasmids were sequenced. The kanamycin resistance plasmid R805a was found in a Salmonella Typhi strain from a 1972 typhoid fever outbreak in Mexico City. pCERC6, which confers resistance to ampicillin, streptomycin and sulphamethoxazole, was found in a commensal E. coli isolated from a healthy adult in Sydney in 2008. Both plasmids contain the same gene for RNAI, the incompatibility determinant, as the reference B/O plasmid pMU707 and the recently reported plasmid p838B-R, which came from a commensal E. coli isolated in Sydney in 2004. However, three different repA alleles are associated with the IncB/O rnaI. Whereas the repA gene of p838B-R is identical to that of pMU707, R805a and pCERC6 each carry a different repA. Comparison of the plasmid backbones revealed that R805a has a different oriT-nikAB region to that in pCERC6 and p838B-R, encoding different NikA relaxosome accessory factors and NikB relaxases. The different nikA genes were associated with oriT sites that differed in the sequences of their long, imperfect inverted repeats. A further 11 publicly available complete plasmid sequences contain the same B/O rnaI, with either the repA of pMU707/p838B-R or of R805a, and the oriT-nikAB region of p838B-R/pCERC6 or of R805a. All four possible combinations were seen. Extensive variation was also observed in the traY-excA entry exclusion region, and in the locations of mobile elements, including ones carrying antibiotic resistance genes. Plasmids that contain the same rnaI gene would be considered the same by a number of typing methods, but this study has unveiled previously unnoticed mosaicism in the backbones of one such group. This highlights the importance of considering entire plasmid backbones for the typing and tracking of specific lineages.