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Open AccessArticle

Distribution of Medically Relevant Antibiotic Resistance Genes and Mobile Genetic Elements in Soils of Temperate Forests and Grasslands Varying in Land Use

1
Department of Genomic and Applied Microbiology and Göttingen Genomics Laboratory, Institute of Microbiology and Genetics, Georg-August University of Göttingen, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany
2
Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland
3
Department of Soil Ecology, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, D-06120 Halle-Saale, Germany
4
Terrestrial Ecology Research Group, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Technical University of Munich, D-85354 Freising, Germany
5
Department of Community Ecology, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, D-06120 Halle-Saale, Germany
6
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
7
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, D-07745 Jena, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Genes 2020, 11(2), 150; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes11020150
Received: 18 December 2019 / Revised: 22 January 2020 / Accepted: 24 January 2020 / Published: 30 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Microbial Genetics and Genomics)
Antibiotic-resistant pathogens claim the lives of thousands of people each year and are currently considered as one of the most serious threats to public health. Apart from clinical environments, soil ecosystems also represent a major source of antibiotic resistance determinants, which can potentially disseminate across distinct microbial habitats and be acquired by human pathogens via horizontal gene transfer. Therefore, it is of global importance to retrieve comprehensive information on environmental factors, contributing to an accumulation of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements in these ecosystems. Here, medically relevant antibiotic resistance genes, class 1 integrons and IncP-1 plasmids were quantified via real time quantitative PCR in soils derived from temperate grasslands and forests, varying in land use over a large spatial scale. The generated dataset allowed an analysis, decoupled from regional influences, and enabled the identification of land use practices and soil characteristics elevating the abundance of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements. In grassland soils, the abundance of the macrolide resistance gene mefA as well as the sulfonamide resistance gene sul2 was positively correlated with organic fertilization and the abundance of aac(6’)-lb, conferring resistance to different aminoglycosides, increased with mowing frequency. With respect to forest soils, the beta-lactam resistance gene blaIMP-12 was significantly correlated with fungal diversity which might be due to the fact that different fungal species can produce beta-lactams. Furthermore, except blaIMP-5 and blaIMP-12, the analyzed antibiotic resistance genes as well as IncP-1 plasmids and class-1 integrons were detected less frequently in forest soils than in soils derived from grassland that are commonly in closer proximity to human activities.
Keywords: antibiotic resistance genes; mobile genetic elements; land use; fertilization; mowing; horizontal gene transfer; forest; grassland; class 1 integrons; IncP-1 plasmids antibiotic resistance genes; mobile genetic elements; land use; fertilization; mowing; horizontal gene transfer; forest; grassland; class 1 integrons; IncP-1 plasmids
MDPI and ACS Style

Willms, I.M.; Yuan, J.; Penone, C.; Goldmann, K.; Vogt, J.; Wubet, T.; Schöning, I.; Schrumpf, M.; Buscot, F.; Nacke, H. Distribution of Medically Relevant Antibiotic Resistance Genes and Mobile Genetic Elements in Soils of Temperate Forests and Grasslands Varying in Land Use. Genes 2020, 11, 150.

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