Characterization and quantification of class 1 integrons and associated gene cassettes in sewage treatment plants

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Apr;82(6):1169-77. doi: 10.1007/s00253-009-1886-y. Epub 2009 Feb 18.


Class 1 integrons and gene cassettes containing antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in five different sewage treatment plants (STPs) were characterized and quantified using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), sequencing, and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) in this study. Class 1 integronase gene (intI1) was found commonly occurring in all of activated sludge samples from the five STPs, as well as in influent and effluent of two STPs at Hong Kong. One hundred and nine lactose-fermenting Enterobacteriaceae (LFE) strains were isolated from activated sludge of Shatin STP. Among them, 36 strains (33.0%) were found to carry class 1 integrons. PCR assays showed that 11 of the 36 intI1-carrying isolates harbored a common type of gene cassette array of about 1,600 bps, as well as the static genes (sulI and qacEDelta1) on class 1 integrons. This gene cassette array was found phylogenetically close to antibiotic resistance genes dfr17 and aadA5, encoding dihydrofolate reductase conferring resistance to trimethoprim and adenylyltransferase conferring resistance to spectinomycin/streptomycin, respectively. Antimicrobial susceptibility analysis demonstrated that all the 11 LFEs carrying gene cassette were multi-resistant, especially having common resistance to trimethoprim and streptomycin. qRT-PCR assay showed that genes copies of both class 1 integron and the gene cassette varied significantly among the activated sludge sampled from different STPs, at different time points or different treatment steps. More than 90% of class 1 integrons and the gene cassette were removed by activated sludge processes in two STPs, while the disinfection process removed 94% integron and 77% gene cassette in one STP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics
  • Enterobacteriaceae / isolation & purification*
  • Gene Order
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Hong Kong
  • Integrons*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology
  • Sewage / microbiology*
  • Water Purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Sewage

Associated data

  • GENBANK/FJ463742
  • GENBANK/FJ463743