The A to Z of A/C Plasmids

11 March 2016

Plasmids belonging to incompatibility groups A and C (now A/C) were among the earliest to be associated with antibiotic resistance in Gram-negative bacteria. A/C plasmids are large, conjugative plasmids with a broad host range. The prevalence of A/C plasmids in collections of clinical isolates has revealed their importance in the dissemination of extended-spectrum β-lactamases and carbapenemases. They also mobilize SGI1-type resistance islands. Revived interest in the family has yielded many complete A/C plasmid sequences, revealing that RA1, designated A/C1, is different from the remainder, designated A/C2. There are two distinct A/C2 lineages. Backbones of 128-130 kb include over 120 genes or ORFs encoding proteins of at least 100 amino acids, but very few have been characterized. Genes potentially required for replication, stability and transfer have been identified, but only the replication system of RA1 and the regulation of transfer have been studied. There is enormous variety in the antibiotic resistance genes carried by A/C2 plasmids but they are usually clustered in larger regions at various locations in the backbone. The ARI-A and ARI-B resistance islands are always at a specific location but have variable content. ARI-A is only found in type 1 A/C2 plasmids, which disseminate blaCMY-2 and blaNDM-1 genes, whereas ARI-B, carrying the sul2 gene, is found in both type 1 and type 2. This review summarizes current knowledge of A/C plasmids, and highlights areas of research to be considered in the future.