Class 1 integrons, gene cassettes, mobility, and epidemiology

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 1999 Nov;18(11):761-70. doi: 10.1007/s100960050398.


Integrons are genetic elements that, although unable to move themselves, contain gene cassettes that can be mobilized to other integrons or to secondary sites in the bacterial genome. The majority of approximately 60 known gene cassettes encode resistance to antibiotics. Recently, a number of gene cassettes encoding extended-spectrum beta-lactamases or carbapenemases have been described. Up to at least five cassettes may be present in an integron, which leads to multiresistance. Frequently, more than one integron is observed within the same bacterial cell. Integrons are widespread in their species distribution. Although integrons are normally reported from Enterobacteriaceae and other gram-negative bacteria, an integron has been described in Corynebacterium glutamicum, a gram-positive species. The gene cassette in this integron showed even higher expression when compared to the expression in Escherichia coli. Integrons have been reported from all continents and are found frequently. The widespread occurrence of integrons is thought to be due to their association with transposon plasmids, conjugative plasmids, or both. Integrons form an important source for the spread of antibiotic resistance, at least in gram-negative bacteria but also potentially in gram-positive bacteria. The aim of this review is to describe the versatility of integrons, especially their mobility and their ability to collect resistance genes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Integrases / genetics*
  • Recombination, Genetic*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Integrases