Integrons are bacterial genetic elements that can capture, rearrange, and express mobile gene cassettes. They are best known for their role in disseminating antibiotic-resistance genes among pathogens. Their ability to rapidly spread resistance phenotypes makes it important to consider what other integron-mediated traits might impact human health in the future, such as increased virulence, pathogenicity, or resistance to novel antimicrobial strategies. Exploring the functional diversity of cassettes and understanding their de novo creation will allow better pre-emptive management of bacterial growth, while also facilitating development of technologies that could harness integron activity. If we can control integrons and cassette formation, we could use integrons as a platform for enzyme discovery and to construct novel biochemical pathways, with applications in bioremediation or biosynthesis of industrial and therapeutic molecules. Integron activity thus holds both peril and promise for humans.
- synthetic biology