Conjugative transfer of mcr-1-bearing plasmid from Salmonella to Escherichia coli in vitro on chicken meat and in mouse gut

Wei Li, Xiaobao Bai, Huanjing Sheng, Jia Chen, Zewei Wang, Tingfen Wang, Ruiwen Sun, Zitian Feng, Yuxuan Wang, Kai Peng, Sheng Chen, Ruichao Li, Baowei Yang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Since mcr-1 was first discovered in 2015, this gene has shown excellent transmission ability and evolutionary characteristics worldwide, leading to major public health and food safety concerns. In this study, chicken meat was used as a food vehicle for the conjugation of mcr-1-bearing Salmonella at different storage temperatures (4 °C, 25 °C, and 37 °C) to simulate mcr-1 transmission during food transportation and storage and determine its efficiency and mechanism. In addition, conjugation experiments were performed in mouse gut to further confirm that mcr-1 is horizontally transferred in vivo during food consumption. 16S rDNA sequencing of mouse stool samples was performed to understand the effect of horizontal transfer of mcr-1 on mouse gut bacteria. mcr-1-bearing plasmids were characterized using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and S1 nuclease-PFGE and sequenced by Illumina sequencing. Our results showed that mcr-1-bearing plasmids in donors are successfully transferred to recipients on chicken meat at not only 25 °C and 37 °C but also 4 °C with conjugation frequencies between 1.32 × 10-6 and 3.85 × 10-4 per recipient cell. In mouse gut, mcr-1 was transferred not only to the recipient bacteria introduced by intragastric administration but also to the intestinal bacteria (E. coli strain named as E6353). Horizontal transfer of mcr-1-bearing plasmid in mouse gut negatively affected the mouse intestinal microbiota. In a constant conjugative environment, plasmid replicon type is the most decisive factor affecting the conjugation frequency. The peak number of transconjugants in group D6-E. coli C600 with an IncHI2-type mcr-1-bearing plasmid (1.43 × 102 colony-forming units [CFU]/g feces) was significantly higher than that of transconjugants in group D7-E. coli C600 with an IncX4-type mcr-1-bearing plasmid (0.3 × 102 CFU/g feces). The upstream and downstream genetic environment of mcr-1 in different plasmid replicon types in Salmonella varied during conjugation in different horizontal transfer environments. An IncI2 plasmid (p25-D4R7S1_mcr-1) lost the insertion sequence ISApl1, which originally existed upstream of mcr-1, when this plasmid transferred from donor to recipient cells on chicken meat at 25 °C. An IncHI2 plasmid was more active than IncI2 and IncX4 plasmids during bacterial reproduction and evolution; an IncFIB–IncHI2 hybrid plasmid (p6176253_mcr-1) was formed in mouse gut during conjugation from pD6_tet(M) and pD6_mcr-1. mcr-1 is captured by mobile genetic elements IS26 in IncX4 plasmids and ISApl1 in IncI2, IncHI2, and IncFIB–IncHI2 hybrid plasmids and is disseminated among bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111263
JournalFood Research International
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Chicken meat
  • Conjugative transfer
  • mcr-1
  • Mouse gut

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science


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