Importance of integrons in the diffusion of resistance

Vet Res. May-Aug 2001;32(3-4):243-59. doi: 10.1051/vetres:2001122.


Horizontal transfer of resistance genes is a successful mechanism for the transmission and dissemination of multiple drug resistance among bacterial pathogens. The impact of horizontally transmitted genetic determinants in the evolution of resistance is particularly evident when resistance genes are physically associated in clusters and transferred en bloc to the recipient cell. Recent advances in the molecular characterisation of antibiotic resistance mechanisms have highlighted the existence of genetic structures. called integrons, involved in the acquisition of resistance genes. These DNA elements have frequently been reported in multi-drug resistant strains isolated from animals and humans, and are located either on the bacterial chromosome or on broad-host-range plasmids. The role of integrons in the development of multiple resistance relies on their unique capacity to cluster and express drug resistance genes. Moreover, the spread of resistance genes among different replicons and their exchange between plasmid and bacterial chromosome are facilitated by the integration of integrons into transposable elements. The association of a highly efficient gene capture and expression system, together with the capacity for vertical and horizontal transmission of resistance genes represents a powerful weapon used by bacteria to combat the assault of antibiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Bacterial