A Peek into the Plasmidome of Global Sewage

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Plasmids can provide a selective advantage for microorganisms to survive and adapt to new environmental conditions. Plasmid-encoded traits, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or virulence, impact the ecology and evolution of bacteria and can significantly influence the burden of infectious diseases. Insight about the identity and functions encoded on plasmids on the global scale are largely lacking. Here, we investigate the plasmidome of 24 samples (22 countries, 5 continents) from the global sewage surveillance project. We obtained 105-Gbp Oxford Nanopore and 167-Gbp Illumina NextSeq DNA sequences from plasmid DNA preparations and assembled 165,302 contigs (159,322 circular). Of these, 58,429 carried genes encoding for plasmid-related and 11,222 for virus/phage-related proteins. About 90% of the circular DNA elements did not have any similarity to known plasmids. Those that exhibited similarity had similarity to plasmids whose hosts were previously detected in these sewage samples (e.g., Acinetobacter, Escherichia, Moraxella, Enterobacter, Bacteroides, and Klebsiella). Some AMR classes were detected at a higher abundance in plasmidomes (e.g., macrolide-lincosamidestreptogramin B, macrolide, and quinolone) compared to the respective complex sewage samples. In addition to AMR genes, a range of functions were encoded on the candidate plasmids, including plasmid replication and maintenance, mobilization, and conjugation. In summary, we describe a laboratory and bioinformatics
workflow for the recovery of plasmids and other potential extrachromosomal DNA elements from complex microbiomes. Moreover, the obtained data could provide further valuable insight into the ecology and evolution of microbiomes, knowledge about AMR transmission, and the discovery of novel functions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00283-21
Issue number3
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Plasmids
  • Microbiome
  • Wastewater
  • Human
  • Animals
  • Oxford Nanopore sequencing
  • Plasmid reconstruction
  • Illumina NextSeq
  • Oxford Nanopore
  • Plasmid DNA isolation


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