Impact of wastewater treatment on the prevalence of integrons and the genetic diversity of integron gene cassettes

Xin Li An, Qing-Lin Chen, Dong Zhu, Yong Guan Zhu, Michael R. Gillings, Jian Qiang Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    48 Citations (Scopus)


    The integron platform allows the acquisition, expression, and dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes within gene cassettes. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) contain abundant resistance genes; however, knowledge about the impacts of wastewater treatment on integrons and their gene cassettes is limited. In this study, by using clone library analysis and high-throughput sequencing, we investigated the abundance of class 1, 2, and 3 integrons and their corresponding gene cassettes in three urban WWTPs. Our results showed that class 1 integrons were most abundant in WWTPs and that wastewater treatment significantly reduced the abundance of all integrons. The WWTP influents harbored the highest diversity of class 1 integron gene cassettes, whereas class 3 integron gene cassettes exhibited highest diversity in activated sludge. Most of the gene cassette arrays detected in class 1 integrons were novel. Aminoglycoside, beta-lactam, and trimethoprim resistance genes were highly prevalent in class 1 integron gene cassettes, while class 3 integrons mainly carried beta-lactam resistance gene cassettes. A core class 1 integron resistance gene cassette pool persisted during wastewater treatment, implying that these resistance genes could have high potential to spread into environments through WWTPs. These data provide new insights into the impact of wastewater treatment on integron pools and highlight the need for surveillance of resistance genes within both class 1 and 3 integrons.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere02766-17
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - May 2018


    • environmental pollution
    • human health
    • horizontal gene transfer
    • wastewater treatment plants


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