Genetic mobility and distribution of tetracycline resistance determinants

Ciba Found Symp. 1997;207:206-18; discussion 219-22.


Since 1953, tetracycline-resistant bacteria have been found increasingly in humans, animals, food and the environment. Tetracycline resistance is normally due to the acquisition of new genes and is primarily due to either energy-dependent efflux of tetracycline or protection of the ribosomes from its action. Gram-negative efflux genes are frequently associated with conjugative plasmids, whereas Gram-positive efflux genes are often found on small mobilizable plasmids or in the chromosome. The ribosomal protection genes are generally associated with conjugative transposons which have a preference for the chromosome. Recently, tetracycline resistance genes have been found in the genera Mycobacterium, Nocardia, Streptomyces and Treponema. The Tet M determinant codes for a ribosomal protection protein which can be found in Gram-positive, Gram-negative, cell-wall-free, aerobic, anaerobic, pathogenic, opportunistic and normal flora species. This promiscuous nature may be correlated with its location on a conjugative transposon and its ability to cross most biochemical and physical barriers found in bacteria. The Tet B efflux determinant is unlike other efflux gene products because it confers resistance to tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline and has the widest host range of all Gram-negative efflux determinants. We have hypothesized that mobility and the environment of the bacteria may help influence the ultimate host range of specific tet genes. If we are to reverse the trend towards increasingly antibiotic-resistant pathogenic bacteria, we will need to change how antibiotics are used in both human and animal health as well as food production.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Tetracycline / pharmacology
  • Tetracycline Resistance*


  • Tetracycline