Triclosan at environmental concentrations can enhance the spread of extracellular antibiotic resistance genes through transformation


The dissemination of antibiotic resistance mediated by horizontal transfer of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) is exacerbating the global antibiotic crisis. Currently, little is known about whether non-antibiotic, anti-microbial (NAAM) chemicals are associated with the dissemination of ARGs in the environment. In this study, we aimed to evaluate whether a ubiquitous NAAM chemical, triclosan (TCS), is able to promote the transformation of plasmid-borne antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). By using the plasmid pUC19 carrying ampicillin resistance genes as the extracellular ARG and a model microorganism Escherichia coli DH5? as the recipient, we found that TCS at environmentally detected concentrations (0.2 ?g/L to 20 ?g/L) significantly enhanced the transformation of plasmid-borne ARGs into E. coli DH5? for up to 1.4-fold. The combination of phenotypic experiments, genome-wide RNA sequencing and proteomic analyses revealed that TCS exposure stimulated the reactive oxygen species (ROS) production for 1.3- to 1.5-fold, induced bacterial membrane damage and up-regulated the translation of outer membrane porin. Moreover, general secretion system Sec (1.4-fold), twin arginine translocation system Tat (1.2-fold) and type IV pilus secretion systems (2.5-fold) were enhanced by TCS, which might contribute to the DNA searching/capture by pilus. Together, TCS might increase the transformation frequency of ARGs into E. coli DH5? by ROS over-production, damaging cell membrane barrier, mediating the pilus capture of plasmid and the translocation of plasmid via cell membrane channels. This study reports that TCS could accelerate the transformation of extracellular ARGs to competent bacteria at environmentally relevant concentrations. The findings advance our understanding of the fate of ARGs in ecosystems and call for risk assessments of NAAM chemicals on disseminating antibiotic resistance.

Authors: Lu J, Wang Y, Zhang S, Bond P, Yuan Z, Guo J
; Full Source The Science of the total environment. 2020 Apr 15;713:136621. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136621. Epub 2020 Jan 10.