Dissemination of antimicrobial resistance genes has become an important public health and biodefense threat. Plasmids are important contributors to the rapid acquisition of antibiotic resistance by pathogenic bacteria.
The nucleotide sequence of the Klebsiella pneumoniae multiresistance plasmid pMET1 comprises 41,723 bp and includes Tn1331.2, a transposon that carries the blaTEM-1 gene and a perfect duplication of a 3-kbp region including the aac(6′)-Ib, aadA1, and blaOXA-9 genes. The replication region of pMET1 has been identified. Replication is independent of DNA polymerase I, and the replication region is highly related to that of the cryptic Yersinia pestis 91001 plasmid pCRY. The potential partition region has the general organization known as the parFG locus. The self-transmissible pMET1 plasmid includes a type IV secretion system consisting of proteins that make up the mating pair formation complex (Mpf) and the DNA transfer (Dtr) system. The Mpf is highly related to those in the plasmid pCRY, the mobilizable high-pathogenicity island from E. coli ECOR31 (HPIECOR31), which has been proposed to be an integrative conjugative element (ICE) progenitor of high-pathogenicity islands in other Enterobacteriaceae including Yersinia species, and ICEKp1, an ICE found in a K. pneumoniae strain causing primary liver abscess. The Dtr MobB and MobC proteins are highly related to those of pCRY, but the endonuclease is related to that of plasmid pK245 and has no significant homology with the protein of similar function in pCRY. The region upstream of mobB includes the putative oriT and shares 90% identity with the same region in the HPIECOR31.
The comparative analyses of pMET1 with pCRY, HPIECOR31, and ICEKp1 show a very active rate of genetic exchanges between Enterobacteriaceae including Yersinia species, which represents a high public health and biodefense threat due to transfer of multiple resistance genes to pathogenic Yersinia strains.