Gama, J.A., Zilhão, R. & Dionisio, F. (2017) Multiple plasmid interference - Pledging allegiance to my enemy’s enemy.Plasmid, 93, 17-23. DOI:10.1016/j.plasmid.2017.08.002 (IF2017 2,228; Q3 Microbiology)
As shown in the previous article, two distinct conjugative plasmids sometimes interact within bacterial cells, implicating changes of transfer rates. In most cases of interactions within bacteria, the transfer of one of the plasmids decreases. Less frequently, the transfer rate of one of the plasmids increases. Here we analyse what happens if three distinct conjugative plasmids colonize the same bacterial cell. Our aim is to understand how interactions between two plasmids affect the transfer rate of the third plasmid. After showing that plasmids interact in 59 out of 84 possible interactions we show that, with some exceptions, if the transfer rate of a plasmid decreases in the presence of a second plasmid, a decrease is also observed in the presence of a third plasmid. Moreover, if the conjugation rate of a plasmid increases in the presence of another, an increase is also observed if there is a third plasmid in the cell. Both types of interactions are mostly independent of the third plasmid's identity, even if sometimes the third plasmid quantitatively distorts the interaction of the other two plasmids. There is a bias towards negative intensifying interactions, which provide good news concerning the spread conjugative plasmids encoding antibiotic-resistance genes and virulence factors.