Natural transformation as a mechanism of horizontal gene transfer among environmental Aeromonas species

Jennifer R. Huddleston, Joshua M. Brokaw, John C. Zak, Randall M. Jeter

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27 Scopus citations


Aeromonas species are common inhabitants of aquatic environments and relevant as human pathogens. Their potential as pathogens may be related in part to lateral transfer of genes associated with toxin production, biofilm formation, antibiotic resistance, and other virulence determinants. Natural transformation has not been characterized in aeromonads. DNA from wild-type, prototrophic strains that had been isolated from environmental sources was used as donor DNA in transformation assays with auxotrophs as the recipients. Competence was induced in 20% nutrient broth during the stationary phase of growth. Optimal transformation assay conditions for one chosen isolate were in Tris buffer with magnesium or calcium, pH 5-8, and a saturating concentration of 0.5μg of DNA per assay (3.3ng of DNA μl-1) at 30°C. Sodium was also required and could not be replaced with ammonium, potassium, or lithium. The maximal transformation frequency observed was 1.95×10-3 transformants (recipient cell)-1. A survey of environmental Aeromonas auxotrophic recipients (n=37), assayed with donor DNA from other wild-type environmental aeromonads under optimal assay conditions, demonstrated that 73% were able to act as recipients, and 100% were able to act as donors to at least some other aeromonads. Three different transformation groups were identified based on each isolates' ability to transform other strains with its DNA. The transformation groups roughly corresponded to phylogenetic groups. These results demonstrate that natural transformation is a general property of Aeromonas environmental isolates with implications for the genetic structures of coincident Aeromonas populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-234
Number of pages11
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Aeromonas
  • Environmental bacteria
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Natural transformation


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