A large conjugative Acinetobacter baumannii plasmid carrying the sul2 sulphonamide and strAB streptomycin resistance genes

09 March 2018

Acinetobacter baumannii is an important nosocomial pathogen that often complicates treatment because of its high level of resistance to antibiotics. Though plasmids can potentially introduce various genes into bacterial strains, compared to other Gram-negative bacteria, information about the unique A. baumannii plasmid repertoire is limited. Here, whole genome sequence data was used to determine the plasmid content of strain A297 (RUH875), the reference strain for the globally disseminated multiply resistant A. baumannii clone, global clone 1(GC1). A297 contains three plasmids. Two known plasmids were present; one, pA297-1 (pRAY*), carries the aadB gentamicin, kanamycin and tobramycin resistance gene and another is an 8.7kb cryptic plasmid often found in GC1 isolates. The third plasmid, pA297-3, is 200kb and carries the sul2 sulphonamide resistance gene and strAB streptomycin resistance gene within Tn6172 and a mer mercuric ion resistance module elsewhere. pA297-3 transferred sulphonamide, streptomycin and mercuric ion resistance at high frequency to a susceptible A. baumannii recipient, and contains several genes potentially involved in conjugative transfer. However, a relaxase gene was not found. It also includes several genes encoding proteins involved in DNA metabolism such as partitioning. However, a gene encoding a replication initiation protein could not be found. pA297-3 includes two copies of a Miniature Inverted-Repeat Transposable Element (MITE), named MITE-297, bracketing a 77.5kb fragment, which contains several IS and the mer module. Several plasmids related to but smaller than pA297-3 were found in the GenBank nucleotide database. They were found in different A. baumannii clones and are wide spread. They all contain either Tn6172 or a variant in the same position in the backbone as Tn6172 in pA297-3. Some related plasmids have lost the segment between the MITE-297 copies and retain only one MITE-297. Others have segments of various lengths between two MITE-297 copies, and these can be derived from the region in pA297-3 via a deletion adjacent to IS related to IS26 such as IS1007 or IS1007-like. pA297-3 and its relatives represent a third type of conjugative Acinetobacter plasmid that contributes to the dissemination of antibiotic resistance in this species.