Integrons: mobilizable platforms that promote genetic diversity in bacteria

Trends Microbiol. 2007 Jul;15(7):301-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2007.05.004. Epub 2007 Jun 12.


Integrons facilitate the capture of potentially adaptive exogenous genetic material by their host genomes. It is now clear that integrons are not limited to the clinical contexts in which they were originally discovered because approximately 10% of bacterial genomes that have been partially or completely sequenced harbour this genetic element. This wealth of sequence information has revealed that integrons are not only much more phylogenetically diverse than previously thought but also more mobilizable, with many integrons having been subjected to frequent lateral gene transfer throughout their evolutionary history. This indicates that the genetic characteristics that make integrons such efficient vectors for the spread of antibiotic resistance genes have been associated with these elements since their earliest origins. Here, we give an overview of the structural and phylogenetic diversity of integrons and describe evolutionary events that have contributed to the success of these genetic elements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Integrons / genetics*
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional / genetics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Recombinases / genetics


  • Recombinases