Indexed on: 14 Jan '10Published on: 14 Jan '10Published in: Environmental Microbiology
We present evidence for the coexistence and coevolution of antibiotic resistance and biosynthesis genes in soil bacteria. The distribution of the streptomycin (strA) and viomycin (vph) resistance genes was examined in Streptomyces isolates. strA and vph were found either within a biosynthetic gene cluster or independently. Streptomyces griseus strains possessing the streptomycin cluster formed part of a clonal complex. All S. griseus strains possessing solely strA belonged to two clades; both were closely related to the streptomycin producers. Other more distantly related S. griseus strains did not contain strA. S. griseus strains with only vph also formed two clades, but they were more distantly related to the producers and to one another. The expression of the strA gene was constitutive in a resistance-only strain whereas streptomycin producers showed peak strA expression in late log phase that correlates with the switch on of streptomycin biosynthesis. While there is evidence that antibiotics have diverse roles in nature, our data clearly support the coevolution of resistance in the presence of antibiotic biosynthetic capability within closely related soil dwelling bacteria. This reinforces the view that, for some antibiotics at least, the primary role is one of antibiosis during competition in soil for resources.