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ACI-1 class A beta-lactamase is widespread across human gut microbiomes due to transposons harboured by tailed prophages

By Chris M Rands, Elizaveta V. Starikova, Harald Brüssow, Evgenia V. Kriventseva, Vadim M Govorun, Evgeny M Zdobnov

Posted 18 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/235788 (published DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.14276)

Antibiotic resistance is increasing among pathogens at unprecedented rates and the human body contains a large pool of antibiotic resistance genes that can be spread among bacteria by mobile genetic elements. Acidaminococcus intestini, a bacterium found in the human gut that belongs to the class of Negativicutes, is the first gram-negative coccus shown to be resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics. Resistance is conferred by aci1, a gene encoding the ACI-1 class A beta-lactamase, but the evolutionary history of aci1 and its distribution across other Negativicutes and in the human gut microbiota remains obscure. We discovered that ACI-1 proteins are phylogenetically distinct from class A beta-lactamases of gram-positive Firmicutes and that the aci1 gene occurs in bacteria scattered across the Negativicutes clade, suggesting possible mobilization. In the reference A. intestini RyC-MR95 strain, we found that aci1 is surrounded by mobile DNA, transposon derived sequences directly flank aci1 and are likely the vehicle for its mobility. These transposon sequences reside within a prophage context consisting of two likely degraded tailed prophages, the first prophages to be characterised in A. intestini. We found aci1 in at least 56 (4.4%) out of 1,267 human gut metagenome samples, mostly hosted within A. intestini, and, where could be determined, mostly within a similar constellation of mobile elements to that found in the reference A. intestini genome. These human samples are from individuals in Europe, China and the USA, showing that aci1 is widely distributed globally. Additionally, we examined the nine different Negativicute genome assemblies that contain aci1, and found that only two of these strains show a similar mobile element context around aci1 to the reference A. intestini with transposons adjacent to a tailed prophage. However, in all nine cases aci1 is flanked by transposon derived sequences, and these sequences are diverse, suggesting the activity and degradation of multiple transposons. Overall, we show that ACI-1 proteins form a distinct class A beta lactamase family, and that the aci1 gene is present in human guts worldwide within Negativicute bacterial hosts, due to transposons, sometimes inserted into tailed prophages.

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