pCERC3 from a commensal ST95 Escherichia coli: A ColV virulence-multiresistance plasmid carrying a sul3-associated class 1 integron

09 March 2018

The rare sulphonamide resistance gene sul3was found in the commensal Escherichia coli ST95 strain 22.1-R1 that was isolated in 2010 from the faeces of a healthy Australian adult. The genome of 22.1-R1 was sequenced and a 144,344 bp RepFII/FIB plasmid, pCERC3, carrying sul3 was assembled. The sul3 gene is part of a class 1 integron featuring a sul3-containing conserved segment (sul3-CS) that replaced the classic sul1-containing 3′-conserved segment (3′-CS) usually seen in class 1 integrons. The integron contained the cassette array dfrA12-orfFaadA2- cmlA1-aadA1-qacH, conferring resistance to trimethoprim, streptomycin, spectinomycin, chloramphenicol and quaternary ammonium compound. Two additional antibiotic resistance genes, blaTEM (ampicillin resistance) and tetA(B) (tetracycline) were adjacent to the integron, forming a single resistance region. In pCERC3, the sul3-type class 1 integron was flanked by sequence derived from the tnp and mer modules of Tn21 and was in the same location as In2, the sul1-containing In5-type class 1 integron of Tn21. At one end the sequence extends into Tn2670-derived sequence and then into sequence derived from the plasmid NR1 (R100). Examination of the sequences of eleven more complete sul3-containing plasmids in GenBank confirmed the relationship between sul3-associated integrons and Tn21/Tn2670/NR1. This suggests that the events that formed sul3- associated class 1 integrons occurred within the Tn21/Tn2670 context, most likely in NR1 or a related plasmid. The backbone of pCERC3 is most closely related to the backbones of ColV virulence plasmids and contains a complete ColV operon as well as several virulence associated genes and gene clusters. Hence, pCERC3 is both an antibiotic resistance and virulence plasmid.