Plasmids are genetic elements that play a role in bacterial evolution by providing new genes that promote adaptation to diverse conditions. Plasmids are also known to reduce bacterial competitiveness in the absence of selection for plasmid-encoded traits. It is easier to understand plasmid persistence when considering the evidence that plasmid maintenance can improve during co-evolution with the bacterial host, i.e. the chromosome. However, bacteria isolated from nature often harbor diverse mobile elements: phages, transposons, genomic islands and even other plasmids. Recent interest has emerged on the role such elements play on the persistence and evolution of plasmids. Here, we mainly review interactions between different plasmids, but also discuss their interactions with other genetic elements. We focus on interactions that impact fundamental plasmid traits, such as the fitness effect imposed on their hosts and the transfer efficiency into new host cells. We illustrate these phenomena with examples concerning clinically relevant organisms and the spread of plasmids carrying antibiotic resistance genes and virulence factors.
Keywords: Antibiotic resistance; Conjugation; Evolution; Interactions; Persistence; Plasmids.
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