Genomic network analysis of environmental and livestock F-type plasmid populations.
Matlock W., Chau KK., AbuOun M., Stubberfield E., Barker L., Kavanagh J., Pickford H., Gilson D., Smith RP., Gweon HS., Hoosdally SJ., Swann J., Sebra R., Bailey MJ., Peto TEA., Crook DW., Anjum MF., Read DS., Walker AS., Stoesser N., Shaw LP., REHAB consortium None.
F-type plasmids are diverse and of great clinical significance, often carrying genes conferring antimicrobial resistance (AMR) such as extended-spectrum β-lactamases, particularly in Enterobacterales. Organising this plasmid diversity is challenging, and current knowledge is largely based on plasmids from clinical settings. Here, we present a network community analysis of a large survey of F-type plasmids from environmental (influent, effluent and upstream/downstream waterways surrounding wastewater treatment works) and livestock settings. We use a tractable and scalable methodology to examine the relationship between plasmid metadata and network communities. This reveals how niche (sampling compartment and host genera) partition and shape plasmid diversity. We also perform pangenome-style analyses on network communities. We show that such communities define unique combinations of core genes, with limited overlap. Building plasmid phylogenies based on alignments of these core genes, we demonstrate that plasmid accessory function is closely linked to core gene content. Taken together, our results suggest that stable F-type plasmid backbone structures can persist in environmental settings while allowing dramatic variation in accessory gene content that may be linked to niche adaptation. The association of F-type plasmids with AMR may reflect their suitability for rapid niche adaptation.