Abundance, diversity, and host assignment of total, intracellular, and extracellular antibiotic resistance genes in riverbed sediments

A. S. Deshpande, N. L. Fahrenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Human health risk assessment for environmental antibiotic resistant microbes requires not only quantifying the abundance of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in environmental matrices, but also understanding their hosts and genetic context. Further, differentiating ARGs in intracellular and extracellular DNA (iDNA and eDNA) fractions may help refine our understanding of ARG transferability. The objectives of this study were to understand the (O1) abundance and diversity of extracellular, intracellular, and total ARGs along a land use gradient and (O2) impact of bioinformatics pipeline on the assignment of putative hosts for the ARGs observed in the different DNA fractions. Sediment samples were collected along a land use gradient in the Raritan River, New Jersey, USA. DNA was extracted to separate eDNA and iDNA and qPCR was performed for select ARGs and the 16S rRNA gene. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing was performed on DNA extracts for the different DNA fractions. ARG hosts were assigned via two different bioinformatic pipelines: network analysis of raw reads versus assembly. Results of the two pipelines were compared to evaluate their performance in terms of number and diversity of linkages and accuracy of in silico matrix spike host assignments. No differences were observed in the 16S rRNA gene normalized sul1 concentrations between the DNA fractions. The overall microbial community structure was more similar for iDNA and total DNA compared to eDNA and generally clustered by sampling site. ARGs associated with mobile genetic elements increased in iDNA for the downstream sites. Regarding host assignment, the raw reads pipeline via network analysis identified 247 ARG hosts as compared to 53 hosts identified by assembly pipeline. Other comparisons between the pipelines were made including ARG assignment to taxa containing waterborne pathogens and practical considerations regarding processing time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118363
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


  • ARG
  • Assembly
  • Metagenomic sequencing
  • Network analysis
  • eDNA
  • iDNA
  • sul1


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