Skip to main content
Science & Technology

Global map of 10,000 plasmids for horizontal gene transfer mechanisms

By 9th November 2020No Comments

The following study was conducted by Scientists from Instituto de Biomedicina y Biotecnología de Cantabria (IBBTEC), Universidad de Cantabria-CSIC, Santander, Spain; Departamento de Ingeniería de las Comunicaciones, Universidad de Cantabria, Santander, Spain; CIBIR, Centro de Investigación Biomédica de La Rioja, Logroño, Spain; Microbial Evolutionary Genomics, Institut Pasteur, CNRS, Paris, France. Study is published in Nature Communications Journal as detailed below.

Nature Communications; Volume 11, Article Number: 3602; (2020)

Pathways for Horizontal Gene Transfer in Bacteria Revealed by a Global Map of Their Plasmids


Plasmids can mediate horizontal gene transfer of antibiotic resistance, virulence genes, and other adaptive factors across bacterial populations. Here, we analyze genomic composition and pairwise sequence identity for over 10,000 reference plasmids to obtain a global map of the prokaryotic plasmidome. Plasmids in this map organize into discrete clusters, which we call plasmid taxonomic units (PTUs), with high average nucleotide identity between its members. We identify 83 PTUs in the order Enterobacterales, 28 of them corresponding to previously described archetypes. Furthermore, we develop an automated algorithm for PTU identification, and validate its performance using stochastic blockmodeling. The algorithm reveals a total of 276 PTUs in the bacterial domain. Each PTU exhibits a characteristic host distribution, organized into a six-grade scale (I–VI), ranging from plasmids restricted to a single host species (grade I) to plasmids able to colonize species from different phyla (grade VI). More than 60% of the plasmids in the global map are in groups with host ranges beyond the species barrier.


Nature Communications



Redondo-Salvo, S., R. Fernández-López, et al. (2020). “Pathways for horizontal gene transfer in bacteria revealed by a global map of their plasmids.” Nature Communications 11(1): 3602.