Open Access Research article

Detection and linkage to mobile genetic elements of tetracycline resistance gene tet(M) in Escherichia coli isolates from pigs

Sonia Jurado-Rabadán1, Ricardo de la Fuente1, José A Ruiz-Santa-Quiteria1*, José A Orden1, Lisbeth E de Vries2 and Yvonne Agersø2

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Sanidad Animal, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain

2 National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen V, Denmark

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10:155  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-10-155

Published: 11 July 2014



In Escherichia coli the genes involved in the acquisition of tetracycline resistance are mainly tet(A) and tet(B). In addition, tet(M) is the most common tetracycline resistance determinant in enterococci and it is associated with conjugative transposons and plasmids. Although tet(M) has been identified in E. coli, to our knowledge, there are no previous reports studying the linkage of the tet(M) gene in E. coli to different mobile genetic elements. The aim of this study was to determine the occurrence of tet(A), tet(B), and tet(M) genes in doxycycline-resistant E. coli isolates from pigs, as well as the detection of mobile genetic elements linked to tet(M) in E. coli and its possible transfer from enterococci.


tet(A) was the most frequently detected gene (87.9%) in doxycycline-resistant isolates. tet(M) was found in 13.1% E. coli isolates. The tet(M) gene was detected in relation with conjugative transposons in 10 out of 36 enterococci isolates analyzed but not in any of E. coli isolates positive for tet(M). Southern blot showed that in E. coli and in most of the enterococci isolates the tet(M) gene was carried on a plasmid. According to the phylogenetic analysis, E. coli contained a new tet(M) allele grouping separately. Mating experiments revealed that tet(M) was carried on a mobile element successfully transferred between enterococci and between enterococci and E. coli.


The detection of tet(M) in E. coli isolates from pigs was higher than expected. In our study, tet(M) detected in E. coli seems not to have been transferred from enterococci, although it can not be ruled out that the horizontal transfer of this gene occurred from other intestinal tract bacteria.

E. coli; Pigs; tet(M); Horizontal gene transfer