Research Topic

Horizontal Gene Transfer Mediated Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance

About this Research Topic

Bacterial antibiotic resistance, especially multiple drug resistance (MDR), has become one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and environment. It has been estimated that the number of human deaths accounted for MDR would increase to 10 million by 2050, exceeding the number of deaths accounted for cancer.

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) mainly drives the evolution of MDR in bacteria. Exogenous DNA carrying antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) can be transferred via HGT (bacterial conjugation, natural transformation or bacteriophage infection), followed by recombination between foreign DNA and chromosomal or plasmid DNA as well as transposition from exogenous DNA to internal DNA in the host bacterium. In this way, the host bacterium becomes a MDR bacterium. ARGs in the MDR bacterium can be further spread via HGT to other distantly-related bacteria in other environments. For example, super resistant bacteria (also called ‘superbugs’) carrying a cluster of ARGs on plasmids (e. g. blaNDM-1 plasmid or mcr-1 plasmid) identified in an isolate from a hospital patient in the hospital, can be later found in another bacterial species elsewhere in the environment such as hospital sewage, wildlife, and agricultural livestock. Understanding the mechanism of formation and spreading of MDR in bacteria is a pre-requisite for monitoring and controlling superbugs in human and animal health, food security and environment.

In this Research Topic for Frontiers in Microbiology, we solicit cutting-edge manuscripts related to:

(1) Mechanism of ARG transfer via HGT. ARGs can be transferred via all the three forms of HGT (bacterial conjugation, natural transformation and bacteriophage infection). In natural transformation/bacterial conjugation, conserved membrane associated DNA transporting systems pull/push single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) into the cytoplasm of the recipient cell. In bacteriophage infection, either double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) or ssDNA can be delivered into bacteria. Recent studies have revealed the presence of a new membrane associated DNA uptake system which delivers exclusively dsDNA to the cytoplasm of a recipient bacterium via natural plasmid transformation. Besides, some other new types of plasmid transfer have been uncovered, adding diversity to the routes for ARG transfer via HGT.

(2) Monitoring and controlling MRD bacteria. The transfer of ARGs across distantly-related bacterial species challenges strategies for monitoring and controlling MDR bacteria, and transcends research disciplines. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen communication and collaboration among different fields. Additionally, novel strategies addressing HGT need to be developed for controlling the development and spreading of MDR in bacteria.

This Research Topic welcomes original research results related to subtopics described above, as well as any reviews/opinions addressing the latest trends relating to HGT-mediated bacterial antimicrobial resistance.


Keywords: plasmid, horizontal gene transfer, antibiotic resistance gene, multiple drug resistance


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Bacterial antibiotic resistance, especially multiple drug resistance (MDR), has become one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and environment. It has been estimated that the number of human deaths accounted for MDR would increase to 10 million by 2050, exceeding the number of deaths accounted for cancer.

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) mainly drives the evolution of MDR in bacteria. Exogenous DNA carrying antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) can be transferred via HGT (bacterial conjugation, natural transformation or bacteriophage infection), followed by recombination between foreign DNA and chromosomal or plasmid DNA as well as transposition from exogenous DNA to internal DNA in the host bacterium. In this way, the host bacterium becomes a MDR bacterium. ARGs in the MDR bacterium can be further spread via HGT to other distantly-related bacteria in other environments. For example, super resistant bacteria (also called ‘superbugs’) carrying a cluster of ARGs on plasmids (e. g. blaNDM-1 plasmid or mcr-1 plasmid) identified in an isolate from a hospital patient in the hospital, can be later found in another bacterial species elsewhere in the environment such as hospital sewage, wildlife, and agricultural livestock. Understanding the mechanism of formation and spreading of MDR in bacteria is a pre-requisite for monitoring and controlling superbugs in human and animal health, food security and environment.

In this Research Topic for Frontiers in Microbiology, we solicit cutting-edge manuscripts related to:

(1) Mechanism of ARG transfer via HGT. ARGs can be transferred via all the three forms of HGT (bacterial conjugation, natural transformation and bacteriophage infection). In natural transformation/bacterial conjugation, conserved membrane associated DNA transporting systems pull/push single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) into the cytoplasm of the recipient cell. In bacteriophage infection, either double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) or ssDNA can be delivered into bacteria. Recent studies have revealed the presence of a new membrane associated DNA uptake system which delivers exclusively dsDNA to the cytoplasm of a recipient bacterium via natural plasmid transformation. Besides, some other new types of plasmid transfer have been uncovered, adding diversity to the routes for ARG transfer via HGT.

(2) Monitoring and controlling MRD bacteria. The transfer of ARGs across distantly-related bacterial species challenges strategies for monitoring and controlling MDR bacteria, and transcends research disciplines. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen communication and collaboration among different fields. Additionally, novel strategies addressing HGT need to be developed for controlling the development and spreading of MDR in bacteria.

This Research Topic welcomes original research results related to subtopics described above, as well as any reviews/opinions addressing the latest trends relating to HGT-mediated bacterial antimicrobial resistance.


Keywords: plasmid, horizontal gene transfer, antibiotic resistance gene, multiple drug resistance


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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