Abstract: Whole-genome sequencing is revolutionizing the analysis of bacterial genomes. It leads to a massive increase in the amount of available data to be analyzed. Bacterial genomes are usually composed of one main chromosome and a number of accessory chromosomes, called plasmids. A recently developed methodology called PLACNET (for plasmid constellation networks) allows the reconstruction of the plasmids of a given genome. Thus, it opens an avenue for plasmidome analysis on a global scale. This work reviews our knowledge of the genetic determinants for plasmid propagation (conjugation and related functions), their diversity, and their prevalence in the variety of plasmids found by whole-genome sequencing. It focuses on the results obtained from a collection of 255 Escherichia coli plasmids reconstructed by PLACNET. The plasmids found in E. coli represent a nonaleatory subset of the plasmids found in proteobacteria. Potential reasons for the prevalence of some specific plasmid groups will be discussed and, more importantly, additional questions will be posed.
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