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Keywords:

  • horizontal gene transfer;
  • bacterial community;
  • conjugation;
  • host range;
  • soil bacteria

Abstract

Horizontal gene transfer by conjugation is common among bacterial populations in soil. It is well known that the host range of plasmids depends on several factors, including the identity of the plasmid host cell. In the present study, however, we demonstrate that the composition of the recipient community is also determining for the dissemination of a conjugative plasmid. We isolated 15 different bacterial strains from soil and assessed the conjugation frequencies of the IncP1 plasmid, pKJK10, by flow cytometry, from two different donors, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas putida, to either 15 different bacterial strains or to the mixed community composed of all the 15 strains. We detected transfer of pKJK10 from P. putida to Stenotrophomonas rhizophila in a diparental mating, but no transfer was observed to the mixed community. In contrast, for E. coli, transfer was observed only to the mixed community, where Ochrobactrum rhizosphaerae was identified as the dominating plasmid recipient. Our results indicate that the presence of a bacterial community impacts the plasmid permissiveness by affecting the ability of strains to receive the conjugative plasmid.