Genetic Characteristics of the Transmissible Locus of Stress Tolerance (tLST) and tLST Harboring Escherichia coli as Revealed by Large-Scale Genomic Analysis

Citation

Zhang, P., Yang, X. (2022). Genetic Characteristics of the Transmissible Locus of Stress Tolerance (tLST) and tLST Harboring Escherichia coli as Revealed by Large-Scale Genomic Analysis. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, [online] 88(7), http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/aem.02185-21

Plain language summary

This study, through a large scale genomic analysis, demonstrated that the genomic island tLST related to multiple stress resistance (such as extreme heat resistance and oxidative stress tolerance) in E. coli is differentially present in subgroups of E. coli and is strongly associated with certain phylogenetic background of the host strain. The study also shows the transmission mechanisms of tLST in E. coli and other species. The overall negative association of tLST, and virulence genes and antimicrobial (AMR) genes suggest the selective pressures for the acquisition and transmission of these traits likely differ. Even so, the high prevalence of tLST in the enterotoxigenic E. coli clone ST2332 and co-occurrence of tLST and AMR genes in E. coli are concerning. Thus, the findings better our understanding of tLST evolution and provide information for risk assessment of tLST harboring bacteria.

Abstract

The transmissible locus of stress tolerance (tLST) confers resistance to multiple stresses in E. coli. Utilizing 18,959 E. coli genomes available in the NCBI database, we investigated the prevalence, phylogenetic distribution, and configuration patterns of tLST, and correlations between tLST, and virulence and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes in E. coli. Four tLST variants were found in 2.7% of E. coli, with the most prevalent (77.1%) variant being tLST1 followed by tLST2 (8.3%), tLST3b (8.3%) and tLST3a (6.3%). The majority (93%) of those tLST were in E. coli belonging to phylogroup A in which the prevalence was 10.4%. tLST was also found in phylogroup B1 (0.5%) and C (0.5%) but not found in B2 or D-G. An additional 1% of the 18,959 E. coli genomes harbored tLST fragments to various extent. Phylogenetic analysis revealed both intra- and interspecies transmission of both chromosomal and plasmid-borne tLST, with E. coli showing a preference of chromosomal over plasmid-borne tLST. The presence of tLST and virulence genes in E. coli was overall negatively correlated, but tLST was found in all genomes of a subgroup of enterotoxigenic E. coli (ST2332). Of note, no Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (n = 3,492) harbored tLST. The prevalence of tLST and AMR genes showed different temporal trends over the period 1985 to 2019. However, a substantial fraction of tLST positive E. coli harbor AMR genes, posing a threat to public health. In conclusion, this study improves our understanding of the genetic characteristics of tLST and E. coli harboring tLST.

Publication date

2022-04-01

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