Incidence and behaviour of Tn916-like elements within tetracycline-resistant bacteria isolated from root canals

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Tetracycline resistance is commonly found in endodontic bacteria. One of the most common tetracycline-resistance genes is tet(M), which is often encoded on the broad-host-range conjugative transposon Tn916. This study aimed to determine whether tet(M) was present in bacteria isolated from endodontic patients at the Eastman Dental Institute and whether this gene was carried on the transferable conjugative transposon Tn916.


The cultivable microflora isolated from 15 endodontic patients was screened for resistance to tetracycline. Polymerase chain reactions for tet(M) and for unique regions of Tn916 were carried out on the DNA of all tetracycline-resistant bacteria. Filter-mating experiments were used to see if transfer of any Tn916-like elements could occur.


Eight out of 15 tetracycline-resistant bacteria isolated were shown to possess tet(M). Furthermore, four of these eight were shown to possess the Tn916-unique regions linked to the tet(M) gene. Transfer experiments demonstrated that a Neisseria sp. donor could transfer an extremely unstable Tn916-like element to Enterococcus faecalis.


The tet(M) gene is present in the majority of tetracycline-resistant bacteria isolated in this study and the conjugative transposon Tn916 has been shown to be responsible for the support and transfer of this gene in some of the bacteria isolated.

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