The role of class I integrons in the dissemination of sulfonamide resistance genes in the Pearl River and Pearl River Estuary, South China

Baowei Chen, Ximei Liang, Xiangping Nie, Xiaoping Huang, Shichun Zou, Xiangdong Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), as a newly emerging contaminant, are unique because they are disseminated through horizontal gene transfer in the environment. In the present study, a class 1 integron gene (int1) and various ARGs (sul1, sul2, sul3, qnrS, and ermB) were measured in water and sediment samples from the Pearl River (PR) to the Pearl River Estuary (PRE), where there is a distinct gradient in anthropogenic impact. The int1, sul1, and sul2 genes were detected in all samples, and their concentrations exhibited a clear trend of decline consistent with anthropogenic impact. Both the int1 and sul genes had dynamically migrated between water and sediments. The relative abundance of the int1 gene normalized to the 16S rRNA gene correlated significantly with the total concentrations of antibiotics in water and sediments. Good correlations were also observed between the abundance of int1 and each type of sul gene in the samples. However, the sul1 gene showed a much stronger relationship with int1 in different seasons, probably due to the presence of sul1 in the conserved region of class 1 integron. Our results strongly support that integrons play an important role in the dissemination of ARGs in human-impacted aquatic environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-67
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2015


  • Antibiotic resistance genes (ARG)
  • Class 1 intergron, pearl river estuary (PRE)
  • South China
  • Sulfonamide resistance genes (sul1, and sul2)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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