Staff member


Sònia Aznar Vicente

Research Assistant
RA_Microbial Biotechnology and Host-Pathogen Interaction
saznar@ibecbarcelona.eu
+34 934 020 212
Staff member publications

Tassinari, E., Aznar, S., Urcola, I., Prieto, A., Hüttener, M., Juárez, A., (2016). The incC sequence is required for R27 plasmid stability Frontiers in Microbiology 7, (6), Article 629

IncHI plasmids account for multiple antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella and other enterobacterial genera. These plasmids are generally very stable in their bacterial hosts. R27 is the archetype of IncHI1 plasmids. A high percentage of the R27-encoded open reading frames (ORFs) (66.7%) do not show similarity to any known ORFs. We performed a deletion analysis of all non-essential R27 DNA sequences to search for hitherto non-identified plasmid functions that might be required for plasmid stability. We report the identification of a short DNA sequence (incC) that is essential for R27 stability. That region contains several repeats (incC repeats), belongs to one of the three-plasmid replicons (R27 FIA-like) and is targeted by the R27 E protein. Deletion of the incC sequence drastically reduces R27 stability both in Escherichia coli and in Salmonella, the effect being more pronounced in this latter species. Interfering with incC-E protein interaction must lead to a reduced IncHI1 plasmid stability, and may represent a new approach to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Keywords: Antimicrobial resistance, E protein, IncC, IncHI1 plasmids, Plasmid R27, Plasmid stability


Paytubi, S., Aznar, S., Madrid, C., Balsalobre, C., Dillon, S. C., Dorman, C. J., Juárez, A., (2014). A novel role for antibiotic resistance plasmids in facilitating Salmonella adaptation to non-host environments Environmental Microbiology 16, (4), 950-962

It is believed that the main role of plasmids that encode multiple antibiotic resistance is to confer their hosts the ability to survive in the presence of antimicrobial compounds. In the pathogenic bacterium Salmonella, plasmids of the incompatibility group HI1 account for a significant proportion of antibiotic resistance phenotypes. In this work, we show that plasmid R27 has a strong impact on the global transcriptome of SalmonellaTyphimurium strain SL1344 when cells grow at low temperature and enter the stationary phase. Down-regulated genes include pathogenicity islands, anaerobic respiration and metabolism determinants. Up-regulated genes include factors involved in the response to nutrient starvation, antimicrobial resistance, iron metabolism and the heat shock response. Accordingly, cells harbouring R27 are more resistant to heat shock than plasmid-free cells. The use of a different IncHI1 plasmid, pHCM1, provided evidence that these plasmids facilitate adaptation of Salmonella to environmental conditions outside their host(s). This is consistent with the fact that conjugative transfer of IncHI1 plasmids only occurs at low temperature. A significant number of the R27-dependent alterations in gene expression could be correlated with expression of a plasmid-encoded orthologue of the global modulator H-NS, which is up-regulated when cells grow at low temperature.


Pedro, L., Banos, R. C., Aznar, S., Madrid, C., Balsalobre, C., Juarez, A., (2011). Antibiotics shaping bacterial genome: Deletion of an IS91 flanked virulence determinant upon exposure to subinhibitory antibiotic concentrations PLoS ONE 6, (11), 11

The nucleoid-associated proteins Hha and YdgT repress the expression of the toxin a-hemolysin. An Escherichia coli mutant lacking these proteins overexpresses the toxin a-hemolysin encoded in the multicopy recombinant plasmid pANN202-312R. Unexpectedly, we could observe that this mutant generated clones that no further produced hemolysin (Hly(-)). Generation of Hly(-) clones was dependent upon the presence in the culture medium of the antibiotic kanamycin (km), a marker of the hha allele (hha::Tn5). Detailed analysis of different Hly(-) clones evidenced that recombination between partial IS91 sequences that flank the hly operon had occurred. A fluctuation test evidenced that the presence of km in the culture medium was underlying the generation of these clones. A decrease of the km concentration from 25 mg/l to 12.5 mg/l abolished the appearance of Hly(-) derivatives. We considered as a working hypothesis that, when producing high levels of the toxin (combination of the hha ydgT mutations with the presence of the multicopy hemolytic plasmid pANN202-312R), the concentration of km of 25 mg/l resulted subinhibitory and stimulated the recombination between adjacent IS91 flanking sequences. To further test this hypothesis, we analyzed the effect of subinhibitory km concentrations in the wild type E. coli strain MG1655 harboring the parental low copy number plasmid pHly152. At a km concentration of 5 mg/l, subinhibitory for strain MG1655 (pHly152), generation of Hly(-) clones could be readily detected. Similar results were also obtained when, instead of km, ampicillin was used. IS91 is flanking several virulence determinants in different enteric bacterial pathogenic strains from E. coli and Shigella. The results presented here evidence that stress generated by exposure to subinhibitory antibiotic concentrations may result in rearrangements of the bacterial genome. Whereas some of these rearrangements may be deleterious, others may generate genotypes with increased virulence, which may resume infection.

Keywords: Promotes horizontal dissemination, Enterica serovar typhimurium, Escherichia-coli strains, Insertion-sequence IS91, H-NS, Adaptive amplification, Pathogenicity islands, Hemolysin


Banos, R. C., Aznar, S., Madrid, C., Juarez, A., (2011). Differential functional properties of chromosomal- and plasmid-encoded H-NS proteins Research in Microbiology 162, (4), 382-385

The nucleoid-associated protein H-NS can be either chromosomal- or plasmid-encoded. We provide in this report evidence indicating that chromosomal- and plasmid-encoded H-NS proteins may differ in their functional properties. The modulatory function of chromosomal H-NS is antagonized by the H-NSTEPEC protein. We show that the H-NS protein encoded by the IncHI plasmid R27 (H-NSR27) is less sensitive to H-NSTEPEC antagonism than its chromosomal counterpart. H-NSR27 plays a relevant role by modulating R27 conjugation in response to temperature. Hence, we suggest that this modulator has evolved to avoid the deregulation of R27 conjugation by H-NSTEPEC-like proteins.

Keywords: H-NS, Conjugation, R27, H-NS antagonism, H-NSTEPEC


Banos, R. C., Vivero, A., Aznar, S., Garcia, J., Pons, M., Madrid, C., Juarez, A., (2009). Differential regulation of horizontally acquired and core genome genes by the bacterial modulator H-NS PLoS Genetics 5, (6), 8

Horizontal acquisition of DNA by bacteria dramatically increases genetic diversity and hence successful bacterial colonization of several niches, including the human host. A relevant issue is how this newly acquired DNA interacts and integrates in the regulatory networks of the bacterial cell. The global modulator H-NS targets both core genome and HGT genes and silences gene expression in response to external stimuli such as osmolarity and temperature. Here we provide evidence that H-NS discriminates and differentially modulates core and HGT DNA. As an example of this, plasmid R27-encoded H-NS protein has evolved to selectively silence HGT genes and does not interfere with core genome regulation. In turn, differential regulation of both gene lineages by resident chromosomal H-NS requires a helper protein: the Hha protein. Tight silencing of HGT DNA is accomplished by H-NS-Hha complexes. In contrast, core genes are modulated by H-NS homoligomers. Remarkably, the presence of Hha-like proteins is restricted to the Enterobacteriaceae. In addition, conjugative plasmids encoding H-NS variants have hitherto been isolated only from members of the family. Thus, the H-NS system in enteric bacteria presents unique evolutionary features. The capacity to selectively discriminate between core and HGT DNA may help to maintain horizontally transmitted DNA in silent form and may give these bacteria a competitive advantage in adapting to new environments, including host colonization.

Keywords: 2A strain 2457T, Escherichia-Coli, Salmonella-Enterica, Protein, DNA, Expression, Binding, HHA, Shigella, Plasmid


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