Evidence for transfer of antibiotic-resistance genes in soil populations of streptomycetes


E.M.H. Wellington Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK. Fax: +44 (0) 1203 523 701; E-mail: eg@dna.bio.warwick.ac.uk


Phylogenetic analysis was used to evaluate the hypothesis of gene transfer in streptomycetes, many of which are antibiotic producers. The diversity and possible origins of streptomycin-resistance genes was investigated for a population of Streptomyces strains isolated from a site in Brazil where antibiotic production had previously been implicated. The analysis provides compelling evidence for the transfer of these genes. Examination of other Streptomyces-type strains also reveals a scattered distribution of streptomycin producers with respect to the overall phylogeny. These results suggest that horizontal gene transfer may be an important factor in the evolution of antibiotic genes in streptomycetes.