Inhibition of plasmid transfer, including transformation and conjugation, is essential to prevent the spread of plasmid-encoded antimicrobial resistance. Photosensitizers have been successfully used in the treatment of serious infectious diseases, however, the effects of photosensitizers on the plasmid transfer are still elusive. In this study, we determined the transformation and conjugation efficiency of plasmid pUC19 and pRP4, respectively, when exposed to a photosensitizer (Visible Light-activated Rose Bengal, VLRB). The results showed that the activation of VLRB resulted in up to a 580-fold decrease in the transformation frequency of pUC19 and a 10-fold decrease in the conjugation frequency of pRP4 compared with the non-VLRB control. The inhibition of pUC19 transformation by VLRB exhibited a dose-dependent manner and was attributed to the changes in the plasmid conformation. The inhibition of pRP4 conjugation was associated with the generation of extracellular free radicals, induced oxidative stress, suppression of the mating pair formation gene (trbBp) and DNA transfer and replication gene (trfAp), and enhanced expression of the global regulatory genes (korA, korB, and trbA). These findings highlight the potential of visible light-activated photosensitizer for mitigating the dissemination of plasmid-encoded antibiotic resistance genes.

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