Evidence for recent intergeneric transfer of a new tetracycline resistance gene, tet(W), isolated from Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens, and the occurrence of tet(O) in ruminal bacteria


Harry J. Flint E-mail h.flint@rri.sari.ac.uk; Tel. (+44) 1224 712751; Fax (+44) 1224 716687.


We have previously reported high-frequency transfer of tetracycline resistance between strains of the rumen anaerobic bacterium Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens. Donor strains were postulated to carry two TcR genes, one of which is transferred on a novel chromosomal element. It is shown here that coding sequences within the non-transmissible gene in B. fibrisolvens 1.230 are identical to those of the Streptococcus pneumoniae tet(O) gene. This provides the first evidence for genetic exchange between facultatively anaerobic bacteria and rumen obligate anaerobes. In contrast, the product of the transmissible TcR gene shares only 68% amino acid sequence identity with the TetO and TetM proteins and represents a new class of ribosome protection tetracycline resistance determinant, designated Tet W. The tet(W) coding region shows a higher DNA G + C content (53%) than other B. fibrisolvens genes or other ribosome protection-type tet genes, suggesting recent acquisition from a high G + C content genome. Tet(W) genes with almost identical sequences are also shown to be present in TcR strains of B. fibrisolvens from Australian sheep and in TcR strains of two other genera of rumen obligate anaerobes, Selenomonas ruminantium and Mitsuokella multiacidus. This provides compelling evidence for recent intergeneric transfer of resistance genes between ruminal bacteria. Tet(W) is not restricted to ruminal bacteria, as it was also present in a porcine strain of M. multiacidus.