Broad-host-range Inc18 plasmids: Occurrence, spread and transfer mechanisms

Plasmid. 2018 Sep;99:11-21. doi: 10.1016/j.plasmid.2018.06.001. Epub 2018 Jun 19.


Conjugative plasmid transfer is one of the major mechanisms responsible for the spread of antibiotic resistance and virulence genes. The incompatibility (Inc) 18 group of plasmids is a family of plasmids replicating by the theta-mechanism, whose members have been detected frequently in enterococci and streptococci. Inc18 plasmids encode a variety of antibiotic resistances, including resistance to vancomycin, chloramphenicol and the macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramine (MLS) group of antibiotics. These plasmids comprising insertions of Tn1546 were demonstrated to be responsible for the transfer of vancomycin resistance encoded by the vanA gene from vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) to methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Thereby vancomycin resistant S. aureus (VRSA) were generated, which are serious multi-resistant pathogens challenging the health care system. Inc18 plasmids are widespread in the clinic and frequently have been detected in the environment, especially in domestic animals and wastewater. pIP501 is one of the best-characterized conjugative Inc18 plasmids. It was originally isolated from a clinical Streptococcus agalactiae strain and is, due to its small size and simplicity, a model to study conjugative plasmid transfer in Gram-positive bacteria. Here, we report on the occurrence and spread of Inc18-type plasmids in the clinic and in different environments as well as on the exchange of the plasmids among them. In addition, we discuss molecular details on the transfer mechanism of Inc18 plasmids and its regulation, as exemplified by the model plasmid pIP501. We finish with an outlook on promising approaches on how to reduce the emerging spread of antibiotic resistances.

Keywords: Antibiotic resistance; Conjugation; Inc18; MRSA; Tn1546; pIP501; vanA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Conjugation, Genetic*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Enterococcus faecalis / drug effects
  • Enterococcus faecalis / genetics
  • Enterococcus faecalis / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Vancomycin Resistance / genetics


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents