Abstract: Conjugative plasmids are the main carriers of transmissible antibiotic resistance (AbR) genes. For that reason, strategies to control plasmid transmission have been proposed as potential solutions to prevent AbR dissemination. Natural mechanisms that bacteria employ as defense barriers against invading genomes, such as restriction-modification or CRISPR-Cas systems, could be exploited to control conjugation. Besides, conjugative plasmids themselves display mechanisms to minimize their associated burden or to compete with related or unrelated plasmids. Thus, FinOP systems, composed of FinO repressor protein and FinP antisense RNA, aid plasmids to regulate their own transfer; exclusion systems avoid conjugative transfer of related plasmids to the same recipient bacteria; and fertility inhibition systems block transmission of unrelated plasmids from the same donor cell. Artificial strategies have also been designed to control bacterial conjugation. For instance, intrabodies against R388 relaxase expressed in recipient cells inhibit plasmid R388 conjugative transfer; pIII protein of bacteriophage M13 inhibits plasmid F transmission by obstructing conjugative pili; and unsaturated fatty acids prevent transfer of clinically relevant plasmids in different hosts, promoting plasmid extinction in bacterial populations. Overall, a number of exogenous and endogenous factors have an effect on the sophisticated process of bacterial conjugation. This review puts them together in an effort to offer a wide picture and inform research to control plasmid transmission, focusing on Gram-negative bacteria.
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