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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

Front. Environ. Sci. Eng.    2018, Vol. 12 Issue (2) : 5
Transport of antibiotic resistance plasmids in porous media and the influence of surfactants
Peipei Chen1, Chaoqi Chen1,2, Xiqing Li1()
1. Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
2. Department of Crops and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
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Indigenous and engineered plasmids have similar transport behavior in porous media.

Indigenous plasmid pK5 transports similarly in quartz sand and soil.

Anionic surfactant SDS has negligible effect on plasmid transport in porous media.

Cationic surfactant CTAB affects plasmid transport at high concentrations.

Indigenous plasmids may transport over significant distances in environment.

Transport of engineered antibiotic resistance plasmids in porous media has been reported to potentially cause significant spreading of antibiotic resistance in the environment. In this work, transport of an indigenous resistance plasmid pK5 in porous media was investigated through packed column experiments. At identical ionic strengths in CaCl2 solutions, the breakthroughs of pK5 from soil columns were very close to those from quartz sand columns, indicating that transport of pK5 in quartz sand and soil was similar. A similarity in transport behavior was also found between pK5 and an engineered plasmid pBR322 that has approximately the same number of base pairs as pK5. The influence of surfactants, a major group of constituents in soil solutions, was examined using an engineered plasmid pcDNA3.1(+)/myc-His A. The impact of an anionic surfactant, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), was negligible at concentrations up to 200 mg·L1. Cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB), a cationic surfactant, was found to significantly enhance plasmid adsorption at high concentrations. However, at environmentally relevant concentrations (<1 mg·L1), the effect of this surfactant was also minimal. The negligible impact of surfactants and the similarity between the transport of engineered and indigenous plasmids indicate that under environmentally relevant conditions, indigenous plasmids in soil also have the potential to transport over long distances and lead to the spreading of antibiotic resistance.

Keywords Indigenous plasmid      Transport      Porous media      Surfactants     
Corresponding Authors: Xiqing Li   
Issue Date: 23 August 2017
 Cite this article:   
Peipei Chen,Chaoqi Chen,Xiqing Li. Transport of antibiotic resistance plasmids in porous media and the influence of surfactants[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2018, 12(2): 5.
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Peipei Chen
Chaoqi Chen
Xiqing Li
Fig.1  Profile of the indigenous antibiotic resistance plasmid pK5
Porous media0.001 mol·L10.006 mol·L10.02 mol·L10.05 mol·L1
Exited fractions
Exited fractions
Exited fractions
Exited fractions
Quartz sand95.9±1.30.05±0.0289.3±0.10.18±0.0261.1±2.71.1±0.120.3±0.23.1±0.0
Tab.1  Fractions exiting columns and adsorption rate coefficients (k) of indigenous resistance plasmid pK5 at different ionic strength (in CaCl2) in porous media
Fig.2  Breakthrough and elution curves of pK5 in CaCl2 in quartz sand (top) and soil columns (bottom)
Fig.3  Breakthrough and elution curves of pcDNA3.1(+)/myc-His A in quartz sand columns in the presence of SDS (top) and CTAB (bottom)
Zeta potential
Exited fractions
Tab.2  Zeta potentials, fractions exiting column, and adsorption rate coefficients (k) of pcDNA3.1(+)/myc-His A in the presence of surfactants
Fig.4  Agarose gel electrophoresis results of pcDNA3.1(+)/myc-His A in 1, 10, 50 and 200 mg?L1 (from top to bottom) SDS solutions transporting through quartz sand columns
Fig.5  Agarose gel electrophoresis results of pcDNA3.1(+)/myc-His A in 1, 10, 50 and 200 mg?L1 (from top to bottom) CTAB solutions transporting through quartz sand columns
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