Co-assortment in integron-associated gene cassette assemblages in environmental DNA samples

Carolyn A. Michael*, Nigel R. Andrew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: It has been shown that integron-associated gene cassettes exist largely in tandem arrays of variable size, ranging from antibiotic resistance arrays of three to five cassettes up arrays of more than 100 cassettes associated with the vibrios. Further, the ecology of the integron / gene cassette system has been investigated by showing that very many different cassettes are present in even small environmental samples. In this study, we seek to extend the ecological perspective on the integron / gene cassette system by investigating the way in which this diverse cassette metagenome is apportioned amongst prokaryote lineages in a natural environment. Results: We used a combination of PCR based techniques, applied to environmental DNA samples, with ecological analytical techniques to establish co-assortment within cassette populations and then established the relationship between this co-assortment and genomic structures. We then assessed the distribution of gene cassettes within the environment and found that the majority of gene cassettes existed in large co-assorting groups. Conclusions: Our results suggested that the gene cassette diversity of a relatively pristine sampling environment was structured into co-assorting groups, predominantly containing large numbers of cassettes per group. These co-assorting groups consisted of different gene cassettes in stoichiometric relationship. Conservatively, we then attributed co-assorting cassettes to the gene cassette complements of single prokaryote lineages and by implication, to large integron associated arrays. The prevalence of large arrays in the environment raises new questions about the assembly, maintenance and utility of large cassette arrays in prokaryote populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Genetics
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 Michael and Andrew; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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