Plasmid dynamics in a model soil column


  • This work is the product of the Environmental Biotechnology Research Group directed by Jim Lynch of Horticulture Research International (HRI) and and Michael Bazin of King's College London. The goal of the Group is to contribute towards reversing the environmental deterioration of the biosphere by investigating environmentally friendly technologies. Sun Li, who is from China, has recently completed his PhD with the Group received financial assistance from K. C. Wong Scholarship, King's College London, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom and Horticulture Research International.

Professor M. J. Bazin.


Continuous-flow column reactors were used to study the dynamics of plasmid exchange in a structured, thermodynamically open system containing either Enterobacter cloacae or Pseudomonas cepacia, both carrying the transmissible recombinant plasmid R388::Tn1721. Plasmid transfer rates were higher in vermiculite and sterile soil columns supplied with nutrient solution than those in sterile and non-sterile soil columns without input of nutrient solution. For both species, donor and recipient strains took about 5 days to reach their maximum densities in effluents from the columns supplied with nutrient solution. After about 8 day s the donor and transconjugant populations of P. cepacia in the effluent solution decreased exponentially, whereas E. cloacae donor, recipient and transconjugant strains maintained steady-state concentrations. The difference between plasmid stability in the two species may have significant consequences in terms of releasing plasmid-bearing genetically modified microorganisms into the natural environment. The plasmid is persistent in E. cloacae in non-sterile soil even though its transfer to the marked recipient in non-sterile soil was minimal.