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Author Notes:

Jerónimo Rodríguez-Beltrán, Email: jeronimo.rodriguez.beltran@gmail.com

Álvaro San Millán, Email: asanmillan@cnb.csic.es

Conceptualization: J.R.-B., Á.S.M., F.B., B.R.L.; data curation: J.R.-B., R.L.-S.; formal analysis: J.R.-B., R.L.-S., P.R.M.; funding acquisition: J.R.-B., Á.S.M., F.B; investigation: J.R.-B., Á.S.M., R.L.-S., P.R.M., C.d.l.V.; methodology: J.R.-B., Á.S.M., R.L.-S.; resources: Á.S.M., J.R.-B., F.B.; software: J.R.-B., R.L.-S.; supervision: J.R.-B., Á.S.M., F.B., B.R.L.; visualization: J.R.-B., R.L.-S.; writing—original draft: J.R.-B., Á.S.M.; writing—review and editing: all authors.

We thank A. Santos-Lopez and C. Herencias for critically reading this manuscript.

Authors declare no competing interests.

Research Funding:

This work was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (ERC grant agreement no. 757440-PLASREVOLUTION) and by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (co-funded by European Development Regional Fund ‘a way to achieve Europe’) grant no. PI19/00749. J.R.-B. acknowledges financial support by a Miguel Servet contract from ISCIII (grant no. CP20/00154), co-funded by ESF, ‘Investing in your future’. B.R.L.'s work is funded by US National Institutes of General Medical Sciences, grant no. R35 GM 136407. F.B.'s work is funded by the Project ST131TS from H2020 JPIAMR Programme of the EU, InGEMICS-CM, funded by Comunidad de Madrid (Spain) and European Structural and Investment Funds, CIBER in Epidemiology and Public Health, CIBERESP; grant no. CB06/02/0053, 2013–2016 and co-funded by Instituto de Salud Carlos III and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, ‘A way to achieve Europe’).


  • codon usage
  • fitness cost
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • plasmid
  • ribosome
  • translational demand
  • Bacteria
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Plasmids

Translational demand is not a major source of plasmid-associated fitness costs


Journal Title:

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences


Volume 377, Number 1842


, Pages 20200463-20200463

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Plasmids are key drivers of bacterial evolution because they are crucial agents for the horizontal transfer of adaptive traits, such as antibiotic resistance. Most plasmids entail a metabolic burden that reduces the fitness of their host if there is no selection for plasmid-encoded genes. It has been hypothesized that the translational demand imposed by plasmid-encoded genes is a major mechanism driving the fitness cost of plasmids. Plasmid-encoded genes typically present a different codon usage from host chromosomal genes. As a consequence, the translation of plasmid-encoded genes might sequestrate ribosomes on plasmid transcripts, overwhelming the translation machinery of the cell. However, the pervasiveness and origins of the translation-derived costs of plasmids are yet to be assessed. Here, we systematically altered translation efficiency in the host cell to disentangle the fitness effects produced by six natural antibiotic resistance plasmids. We show that limiting translation efficiency either by reducing the number of available ribosomes or their processivity does not increase plasmid costs. Overall, our results suggest that ribosomal paucity is not a major contributor to plasmid fitness costs. This article is part of the theme issue 'The secret lives of microbial mobile genetic elements'.

Copyright information:

© 2021 The Authors

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/rdf).
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