Mercury resistance transposons in Bacilli strains from different geographical regions

Kazuaki Matsui, Satoshi Yoshinami, Masaru Narita, Mei Fang Chien, Le T. Phung, Simon Silver, Ginro Endo

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29 Citations (Scopus)


A total of 65 Spore-Forming Mercury-Resistant bacteria were isolated from natural environments worldwide in order to understand the acquisition of additional genes by and dissemination of mercury resistance transposons across related Bacilli genera by horizontal gene movement. PCR amplification using a single primer complementary to the inverted repeat sequence of TnMERI1-Like transposons showed that 12 of 65 isolates had a Transposon-Like structure. There were four types of amplified fragments: Tn5084, Tn5085, TndMER3 (a newly identified deleted Transposon-Like fragment) and Tn6294 (a newly identified transposon). TndMER3 is a 3.5-kb sequence that carries a merRETPA operon with no merB or transposase genes. It is related to the mer operon of Bacillus licheniformis strain FA6-12 from Russia. DNA homology analysis shows that Tn6294 is an 8.5-kb sequence that is possibly derived from TndMER3 by integration of a TnMERI1-type transposase and resolvase genes and in addition the merR2 and merB1 genes. Bacteria harboring Tn6294 exhibited Broad-Spectrum mercury resistance to organomercurial compounds, although Tn6294 had only merB1 and did not have the merB2 and merB3 sequences for organomercurial lyases found in Tn5084 of B. cereus strain RC607. Strains with Tn6294 encode mercuric reductase (MerA) of less than 600 amino acids in length with a single N-Terminal Mercury-Binding domain, whereas MerA encoded by strains MB1 and RC607 has two tandem domains. Thus, TndMER3 and Tn6294 are shorter prototypes for TnMERI1-Like transposons. Identification of Tn6294 in Bacillus sp. from Taiwan and in Paenibacillus sp. from Antarctica indicates the wide horizontal dissemination of TnMERI1-Like transposons across bacterial species and geographical barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfnw013
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 8


  • Bacilli
  • Broad-Spectrum mercury resistance
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Mer operon
  • Worldwide gene dissemination


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