Integrative analysis of fitness and metabolic effects of plasmids in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1

Alvaro San Millan*, Macarena Toll-Riera*, Qin Qi, Alex Betts, Richard J. Hopkinson, James McCullagh, R. Craig MacLean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) mediated by the spread of plasmids fuels evolution in prokaryotes. Although plasmids provide bacteria with new adaptive genes, they also produce physiological alterations that often translate into a reduction in bacterial fitness. The fitness costs associated with plasmids represent an important limit to plasmid maintenance in bacterial communities, but their molecular origins remain largely unknown. In this work, we combine phenomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics to study the fitness effects produced by a collection of diverse plasmids in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1. Using this approach, we scan the physiological changes imposed by plasmids and test the generality of some main mechanisms that have been proposed to explain the cost of HGT, including increased biosynthetic burden, reduced translational efficiency, and impaired chromosomal replication. Our results suggest that the fitness effects of plasmids have a complex origin, since none of these mechanisms could individually provide a general explanation for the cost of plasmid carriage. Interestingly, our results also showed that plasmids alter the expression of a common set of metabolic genes in PAO1, and produce convergent changes in host cell metabolism. These surprising results suggest that there is a common metabolic response to plasmids in P. aeruginosa PAO1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3014-3024
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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.


  • DNA Replication
  • DNA, Bacterial/genetics
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Plasmids/genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa/genetics


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