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The effect of bacterial growth strategies on plasmid transfer and naphthalene degradation for bioremediation...

by Paige Varner, Marco N Allemann, Joshua K Michener, Claudia Gunsch
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Environmental Technology & Innovation
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In Press
In Press

Mobilizable plasmids are extra-chromosomal, circular DNA that have contributed to the rapid evolution of bacterial genomes and have been used in environmental, biotechnological, and medicinal applications. Degradative plasmids with genetic capabilities to degrade organic contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), have the potential to be useful for more environmentally friendly and cost-effective remediation technologies compared to existing physical remediation methods. Genetic bioaugmentation, the addition of catabolic genes into well-adapted communities via plasmid transfer (conjugation), is being explored as a remediation approach that is sustainable and long-lasting. Here, we explored the effect of the ecological growth strategies of plasmid donors and recipients on conjugation and naphthalene degradation of two PAH-degrading plasmids, pNL1 and NAH7. Overall, both pNL1 and NAH7 showed conjugation preferences towards a slow-growing ecological growth strategy, except when NAH7 was in a mixed synthetic community. These conjugation preferences were partially described by a combination of growth strategy, GC content, and phylogenetic relatedness. Further, removal of naphthalene via plasmid-mediated degradation was consistently higher in a community consisting of recipients with a slow-growing ecological growth strategy compared to a mixed community or a community consisting of fast-growing ecological growth strategy. Understanding plasmid conjugation and degradative preferences has the capacity to influence future remediation technology design and has broad implications in biomedical, environmental, and health fields.