Monitoring antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) across ecological niches is critical for assessing the impacts distinct microbial communities have on the global spread of resistance. In permafrost-associated soils, climate and human driven disturbances augment near-surface thaw shifting the predominant bacteria that shape the resistome in overlying active layer soils. This thaw is of concern in Alaska, because 85% of land is underlain by permafrost, making soils especially vulnerable to disturbances. The goal of this study is to assess how soil disturbance, and the subsequent shift in community composition, will affect the types, abundance, and mobility of ARGs that compose the active layer resistome. We address this goal through the following aims: (1) assess resistance phenotypes through antibiotic susceptibility testing, and (2) analyze types, abundance, and mobility of ARGs through whole genome analyses of bacteria isolated from a disturbance-induced thaw gradient in Interior Alaska. We found a high proportion of isolates resistant to at least one of the antibiotics tested with the highest prevalence of resistance to ampicillin. The abundance of ARGs and proportion of resistant isolates increased with disturbance; however, the number of ARGs per isolate was explained more by phylogeny than isolation site. When compared to a global database of soil bacteria, RefSoil+, our isolates from the same genera had distinct ARGs with a higher proportion on plasmids. These results emphasize the hypothesis that both phylogeny and ecology shape the resistome and suggest that a shift in community composition as a result of disturbance-induced thaw will be reflected in the predominant ARGs comprising the active layer resistome.
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