Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is the most poisonous substances known and its eight toxin types (A to H) are distinguished by the inability of polyclonal antibodies that neutralize one toxin type to neutralize any of the other seven toxin types. Infant botulism, an intestinal toxemia orphan disease, is the most common form of human botulism in the United States. It results from swallowed spores of Clostridium botulinum (or rarely, neurotoxigenic Clostridium butyricum or Clostridium baratii) that germinate and temporarily colonize the lumen of the large intestine, where, as vegetative cells, they produce botulinum toxin. Botulinum neurotoxin is encoded by the bont gene that is part of a toxin gene cluster that includes several accessory genes. We sequenced for the first time the complete botulinum neurotoxin gene cluster of nonproteolytic C. baratii type F7. Like the type E and the nonproteolytic type F6 botulinum toxin gene clusters, the C. baratii type F7 had an orfX toxin gene cluster that lacked the regulatory botR gene which is found in proteolytic C. botulinum strains and codes for an alternative σ factor. In the absence of botR, we identified a putative alternative regulatory gene located upstream of the C. baratii type F7 toxin gene cluster. This putative regulatory gene codes for a predicted σ factor that contains DNA-binding-domain homologues to the DNA-binding domains both of BotR and of other members of the TcdR-related group 5 of the σ70 family that are involved in the regulation of toxin gene expression in clostridia. We showed that this TcdR-related protein in association with RNA polymerase core enzyme specifically binds to the C. baratii type F7 botulinum toxin gene cluster promoters. This TcdR-related protein may therefore be involved in regulating the expression of the genes of the botulinum toxin gene cluster in neurotoxigenic C. baratii.
Sanger and shotgun sequencing of Clostridium botulinum strain Af84 type Af and its botulinum neurotoxin gene (bont) clusters identified the presence of three bont gene clusters rather than the expected two. The three toxin gene clusters consisted of bont subtypes A2, F4 and F5. The bont/A2 and bont/F4 gene clusters were located within the chromosome (the latter in a novel location), while the bont/F5 toxin gene cluster was located within a large 246 kb plasmid. These findings are the first identification of a C. botulinum strain that contains three botulinum neurotoxin gene clusters.
In May of 2011, an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain that had acquired a Shiga toxin 2-converting phage caused a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea in Europe which was notable for its high prevalence of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases. Several studies have described the genomic inventory and phylogenies of strains associated with the outbreak and a collection of historical E. coli O104:H4 isolates using draft genome assemblies. We present the complete, closed genome sequences of an isolate from the 2011 outbreak (2011C–3493) and two isolates from cases of bloody diarrhea that occurred in the Republic of Georgia in 2009 (2009EL–2050 and 2009EL–2071). Comparative genome analysis indicates that, while the Georgian strains are the nearest neighbors to the 2011 outbreak isolates sequenced to date, structural and nucleotide-level differences are evident in the Stx2 phage genomes, the mer/tet antibiotic resistance island, and in the prophage and plasmid profiles of the strains, including a previously undescribed plasmid with homology to the pMT virulence plasmid of Yersinia pestis. In addition, multiphenotype analysis showed that 2009EL–2071 possessed higher resistance to polymyxin and membrane-disrupting agents. Finally, we show evidence by electron microscopy of the presence of a common phage morphotype among the European and Georgian strains and a second phage morphotype among the Georgian strains. The presence of at least two stx2 phage genotypes in host genetic backgrounds that may derive from a recent common ancestor of the 2011 outbreak isolates indicates that the emergence of stx2 phage-containing E. coli O104:H4 strains probably occurred more than once, or that the current outbreak isolates may be the result of a recent transfer of a new stx2 phage element into a pre-existing stx2-positive genetic background.
A total of 41 Clostridium botulinum serotype E strains from different geographic regions, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greenland, Japan, and the United States, were compared by multilocus sequence typing (MLST), amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis, variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) analysis, and botulinum neurotoxin (bont) E gene sequencing. The strains, representing environmental, food-borne, and infant botulism samples collected from 1932 to 2007, were analyzed to compare serotype E strains from different geographic regions and types of botulism and to determine whether each of the strains contained the transposon-associated recombinase rarA, involved with bont/E insertion. MLST examination using 15 genes clustered the strains into several clades, with most members within a cluster sharing the same BoNT/E subtype (BoNT/E1, E2, E3, or E6). Sequencing of the bont/E gene identified two new variants (E7, E8) that showed regions of recombination with other E subtypes. The AFLP dendrogram clustered the 41 strains similarly to the MLST dendrogram. Strains that could not be differentiated by AFLP, MLST, or bont gene sequencing were further examined using three VNTR regions. Both intact and split rarA genes were amplified by PCR in each of the strains, and their identities were confirmed in 11 strains by amplicon sequencing. The findings suggest that (i) the C. botulinum serotype E strains result from the targeted insertion of the bont/E gene into genetically conserved bacteria and (ii) recombination events (not random mutations) within bont/E result in toxin variants or subtypes within strains.
An isolate originally labeled Bacillus megaterium CDC 684 was found to contain both pXO1 and pXO2, was non-hemolytic, sensitive to gamma-phage, and produced both the protective antigen and the poly-D-glutamic acid capsule. These phenotypes prompted Ezzell et al., (J. Clin. Microbiol. 28:223) to reclassify this isolate to Bacillus anthracis in 1990.
We demonstrate that despite these B. anthracis features, the isolate is severely attenuated in a guinea pig model. This prompted whole genome sequencing and closure. The comparative analysis of CDC 684 to other sequenced B. anthracis isolates and further analysis reveals: a) CDC 684 is a close relative of a virulent strain, Vollum A0488; b) CDC 684 defines a new B. anthracis lineage (at least 51 SNPs) that includes 15 other isolates; c) the genome of CDC 684 contains a large chromosomal inversion that spans 3.3 Mbp; d) this inversion has caused a displacement of the usual spatial orientation of the origin of replication (ori) to the termination of replication (ter) from 180° in wild-type B. anthracis to 120° in CDC 684 and e) this isolate also has altered growth kinetics in liquid media.
We propose two alternative hypotheses explaining the attenuated phenotype of this isolate. Hypothesis 1 suggests that the skewed ori/ter relationship in CDC 684 has altered its DNA replication and/or transcriptome processes resulting in altered growth kinetics and virulence capacity. Hypothesis 2 suggests that one or more of the single nucleotide polymorphisms in CDC 684 has altered the expression of a regulatory element or other genes necessary for virulence.
Sequencing of the genome of Clostridium botulinum strain Hall A revealed a gene (CBO0515), whose putative amino acid sequence was suggestive of the rare enzyme N5-(1-carboxyethyl) ornithine synthase. To test this hypothesis, CBO0515 has been cloned, and the encoded polypeptide was purified and characterized. This unusual gene appears to be confined to proteolytic strains assigned to group 1 of C. botulinum.
Clostridium botulinum is a taxonomic designation for at least four diverse species that are defined by the expression of one (monovalent) or two (bivalent) of seven different C. botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs, A-G). The four species have been classified as C. botulinum Groups I-IV. The presence of bont genes in strains representing the different Groups is probably the result of horizontal transfer of the toxin operons between the species.
Chromosome and plasmid sequences of several C. botulinum strains representing A, B, E and F serotypes and a C. butyricum type E strain were compared to examine their genomic organization, or synteny, and the location of the botulinum toxin complex genes. These comparisons identified synteny among proteolytic (Group I) strains or nonproteolytic (Group II) strains but not between the two Groups. The bont complex genes within the strains examined were not randomly located but found within three regions of the chromosome or in two specific sites within plasmids. A comparison of sequences from a Bf strain revealed homology to the plasmid pCLJ with similar locations for the bont/bv b genes but with the bont/a4 gene replaced by the bont/f gene. An analysis of the toxin cluster genes showed that many recombination events have occurred, including several events within the ntnh gene. One such recombination event resulted in the integration of the bont/a1 gene into the serotype toxin B ha cluster, resulting in a successful lineage commonly associated with food borne botulism outbreaks. In C. botulinum type E and C. butyricum type E strains the location of the bont/e gene cluster appears to be the result of insertion events that split a rarA, recombination-associated gene, independently at the same location in both species.
The analysis of the genomic sequences representing different strains reveals the presence of insertion sequence (IS) elements and other transposon-associated proteins such as recombinases that could facilitate the horizontal transfer of the bonts; these events, in addition to recombination among the toxin complex genes, have led to the lineages observed today within the neurotoxin-producing clostridia.
Ten variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) regions identified within the complete genomic sequence of Clostridium botulinum strain ATCC 3502 were used to characterize 59 C. botulinum strains of the botulism neurotoxin A1 (BoNT/A1) to BoNT/A4 (BoNT/A1-A4) subtypes to determine their ability to discriminate among the serotype A strains. Two strains representing each of the C. botulinum serotypes B to G, including five bivalent strains, and two strains of the closely related species Clostridium sporogenes were also tested. Amplified fragment length polymorphism analyses revealed the genetic diversity among the serotypes and the high degree of similarity among many of the BoNT/A1 strains. The 10 VNTR markers amplified fragments within all of the serotype A strains but were less successful with strains of other serotypes. The composite multiple-locus VNTR analysis of the 59 BoNT/A1-A4 strains and 3 bivalent B strains identified 38 different genotypes. Thirty genotypes were identified among the 53 BoNT/A1 and BoNT/A1(B) strains, demonstrating discrimination below the subtype level. Contaminating DNA within crude toxin preparations of three BoNT/A subtypes (BoNT/A1 to BoNT/A3) also supported amplification of all of the VNTR regions. These markers provide clinical and forensics laboratories with a rapid, highly discriminatory tool to distinguish among C. botulinum BoNT/A1 strains for investigations of botulism outbreaks.
A small number of conserved canonical single nucleotide polymorphisms (canSNP) that define major phylogenetic branches for Bacillus anthracis were used to place a Sverdlovsk patient’s B. anthracis genotype into 1 of 12 subgroups. Reconstruction of the pagA gene also showed a unique SNP that defines a new lineage for B. anthracis.
Sverdlovsk; anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; canSNP; pagA; dispatch
Clostridium botulinum and related clostridial species express extremely potent neurotoxins known as botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) that cause long-lasting, potentially fatal intoxications in humans and other mammals. The amino acid variation within the BoNT is used to categorize the species into seven immunologically distinct BoNT serotypes (A–G) which are further divided into subtypes. The BoNTs are located within two generally conserved gene arrangements known as botulinum progenitor complexes which encode toxin-associated proteins involved in toxin stability and expression.
Because serotype A and B strains are responsible for the vast majority of human botulism cases worldwide, the location, arrangement and sequences of genes from eight different toxin complexes representing four different BoNT/A subtypes (BoNT/A1-Ba4) and one BoNT/B1 strain were examined. The bivalent Ba4 strain contained both the BoNT/A4 and BoNT/bvB toxin clusters. The arrangements of the BoNT/A3 and BoNT/A4 subtypes differed from the BoNT/A1 strains and were similar to those of BoNT/A2. However, unlike the BoNT/A2 subtype, the toxin complex genes of BoNT/A3 and BoNT/A4 were found within large plasmids and not within the chromosome. In the Ba4 strain, both BoNT toxin clusters (A4 and bivalent B) were located within the same 270 kb plasmid, separated by 97 kb. Complete genomic sequencing of the BoNT/B1 strain also revealed that its toxin complex genes were located within a 149 kb plasmid and the BoNT/A3 complex is within a 267 kb plasmid.
Despite their size differences and the BoNT genes they contain, the three plasmids containing these toxin cluster genes share significant sequence identity. The presence of partial insertion sequence (IS) elements, evidence of recombination/gene duplication events, and the discovery of the BoNT/A3, BoNT/Ba4 and BoNT/B1 toxin complex genes within plasmids illustrate the different mechanisms by which these genes move among diverse genetic backgrounds of C. botulinum.
Bacillus thuringiensis is an insect pathogen that is widely used as a biopesticide (E. Schnepf, N. Crickmore, J. Van Rie, D. Lereclus, J. Baum, J. Feitelson, D. R. Zeigler, and D. H. Dean, Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 62:775-806, 1998). Here we report the finished, annotated genome sequence of B. thuringiensis Al Hakam, which was collected in Iraq by the United Nations Special Commission (L. Radnedge, P. Agron, K. Hill, P. Jackson, L. Ticknor, P. Keim, and G. Andersen, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 69:2755-2764, 2003).
Bacillus cereus is ubiquitous in nature, and while most isolates appear to be harmless, some are associated with food-borne illnesses, periodontal diseases, and other more serious infections. In one such infection, B. cereus G9241 was identified as the causative agent of a severe pneumonia in a Louisiana welder in 1994. This isolate was found to harbor most of the B. anthracis virulence plasmid pXO1 (13). Here we report the characterization of two clinical and one environmental B. cereus isolate collected during an investigation of two fatal pneumonia cases in Texas metal workers. Molecular subtyping revealed that the two cases were not caused by the same strain. However, one of the three isolates was indistinguishable from B. cereus G9241. PCR analysis demonstrated that both clinical isolates contained B. anthracis pXO1 toxin genes. One clinical isolate and the environmental isolate collected from that victim's worksite contained the cap A, B, and C genes required for capsule biosynthesis in B. anthracis. Both clinical isolates expressed a capsule; however, neither was composed of poly-d-glutamic acid. Although most B. cereus isolates are not opportunistic pathogens and only a limited number cause food-borne illnesses, these results demonstrate that some B. cereus strains can cause severe and even fatal infections in patients who appear to be otherwise healthy.
Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus cereus, and Bacillus thuringiensis are closely related gram-positive, spore-forming bacteria of the B. cereus sensu lato group. While independently derived strains of B. anthracis reveal conspicuous sequence homogeneity, environmental isolates of B. cereus and B. thuringiensis exhibit extensive genetic diversity. Here we report the sequencing and comparative analysis of the genomes of two members of the B. cereus group, B. thuringiensis 97-27 subsp. konkukian serotype H34, isolated from a necrotic human wound, and B. cereus E33L, which was isolated from a swab of a zebra carcass in Namibia. These two strains, when analyzed by amplified fragment length polymorphism within a collection of over 300 of B. cereus, B. thuringiensis, and B. anthracis isolates, appear closely related to B. anthracis. The B. cereus E33L isolate appears to be the nearest relative to B. anthracis identified thus far. Whole-genome sequencing of B. thuringiensis 97-27and B. cereus E33L was undertaken to identify shared and unique genes among these isolates in comparison to the genomes of pathogenic strains B. anthracis Ames and B. cereus G9241 and nonpathogenic strains B. cereus ATCC 10987 and B. cereus ATCC 14579. Comparison of these genomes revealed differences in terms of virulence, metabolic competence, structural components, and regulatory mechanisms.
DNA from over 300 Bacillus thuringiensis, Bacillus cereus, and Bacillus anthracis isolates was analyzed by fluorescent amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP). B. thuringiensis and B. cereus isolates were from diverse sources and locations, including soil, clinical isolates and food products causing diarrheal and emetic outbreaks, and type strains from the American Type Culture Collection, and over 200 B. thuringiensis isolates representing 36 serovars or subspecies were from the U.S. Department of Agriculture collection. Twenty-four diverse B. anthracis isolates were also included. Phylogenetic analysis of AFLP data revealed extensive diversity within B. thuringiensis and B. cereus compared to the monomorphic nature of B. anthracis. All of the B. anthracis strains were more closely related to each other than to any other Bacillus isolate, while B. cereus and B. thuringiensis strains populated the entire tree. Ten distinct branches were defined, with many branches containing both B. cereus and B. thuringiensis isolates. A single branch contained all the B. anthracis isolates plus an unusual B. thuringiensis isolate that is pathogenic in mice. In contrast, B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki (ATCC 33679) and other isolates used to prepare insecticides mapped distal to the B. anthracis isolates. The interspersion of B. cereus and B. thuringiensis isolates within the phylogenetic tree suggests that phenotypic traits used to distinguish between these two species do not reflect the genomic content of the different isolates and that horizontal gene transfer plays an important role in establishing the phenotype of each of these microbes. B. thuringiensis isolates of a particular subspecies tended to cluster together.
The three species of the group 1 bacilli, Bacillus anthracis, B. cereus, and B. thuringiensis, are genetically very closely related. All inhabit soil habitats but exhibit different phenotypes. B. anthracis is the causative agent of anthrax and is phylogenetically monomorphic, while B. cereus and B. thuringiensis are genetically more diverse. An amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis described here demonstrates genetic diversity among a collection of non-anthrax-causing Bacillus species, some of which show significant similarity to B. anthracis. Suppression subtractive hybridization was then used to characterize the genomic differences that distinguish three of the non-anthrax-causing bacilli from B. anthracis Ames. Ninety-three DNA sequences that were present in B. anthracis but absent from the non-anthrax-causing Bacillus genomes were isolated. Furthermore, 28 of these sequences were not found in a collection of 10 non-anthrax-causing Bacillus species but were present in all members of a representative collection of B. anthracis strains. These sequences map to distinct loci on the B. anthracis genome and can be assayed simultaneously in multiplex PCR assays for rapid and highly specific DNA-based detection of B. anthracis.
We examined 154 Norwegian B. cereus and B. thuringiensis soil isolates (collected from five different locations), 8 B. cereus and 2 B. thuringiensis reference strains, and 2 Bacillus anthracis strains by using fluorescent amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP). We employed a novel fragment identification approach based on a hierarchical agglomerative clustering routine that identifies fragments in an automated fashion. No method is free of error, and we identified the major sources so that experiments can be designed to minimize its effect. Phylogenetic analysis of the fluorescent AFLP results reveals five genetic groups in these group 1 bacilli. The ATCC reference strains were restricted to two of the genetic groups, clearly not representative of the diversity in these bacteria. Both B. anthracis strains analyzed were closely related and affiliated with a B. cereus milk isolate (ATCC 4342) and a B. cereus human pathogenic strain (periodontitis). Across the entire study, pathogenic strains, including B. anthracis, were more closely related to one another than to the environmental isolates. Eight strains representing the five distinct phylogenetic clusters were further analyzed by comparison of their 16S rRNA gene sequences to confirm the phylogenetic status of these groups. This analysis was consistent with the AFLP analysis, although of much lower resolution. The innovation of automated genotype analysis by using a replicated and statistical approach to fragment identification will allow very large sample analyses in the future.
Efficient, nonselective methods to obtain DNA from the environment are needed for rapid and thorough analysis of introduced microorganisms in environmental samples and for analysis of microbial community diversity in soil. A small-scale procedure to rapidly extract and purify DNA from soils was developed for in-the-field use. Amounts of DNA released from bacterial vegetative cells, bacterial endospores, and fungal conidia were compared by using hot-detergent treatment, freeze-thaw cycles, and bead mill homogenization. Combining a hot-detergent treatment with bead mill homogenization gave the highest DNA yields from all three microbial cell types and provided DNA from the broadest range of microbial groups in a natural soil community. Only the bead mill homogenization step was effective for DNA extraction from Bacillus globigii (B. subtilis subsp. niger) endospores or Fusarium moniliforme conidia. The hot-detergent–bead mill procedure was simplified and miniaturized. By using this procedure and small-scale, field-adapted purification and quantification procedures, DNA was prepared from four different soils seeded with Pseudomonas putida cells or B. globigii spores. In a New Mexico soil, seeded bacterial targets were detected with the same sensitivity as when assaying pure bacterial DNA (2 to 20 target gene copies in a PCR mixture). The detection limit of P. putida cells and B. globigii spores in different soils was affected by the amount of background DNA in the soil samples, the physical condition of the DNA, and the amount of DNA template used in the PCR.
A bacterial biosensor for benzene, toluene, and similar compounds has been constructed, characterized, and field tested on contaminated water and soil. The biosensor is based on a plasmid incorporating the transcriptional activator xylR from the TOL plasmid of Pseudomonas putida mt-2. The XylR protein binds a subset of toluene-like compounds and activates transcription at its promoter, Pu. A reporter plasmid was constructed by placing the luc gene for firefly luciferase under the control of XylR and Pu. When Escherichia coli cells were transformed with this plasmid vector, luminescence from the cells was induced in the presence of benzene, toluene, xylenes, and similar molecules. Accurate concentration dependencies of luminescence were obtained and exhibited K1/2 values ranging from 39.0 ± 3.8 μM for 3-xylene to 2,690 ± 160 μM for 3-methylbenzylalcohol (means ± standard deviations). The luminescence response was specific for only toluene-like molecules that bind to and activate XylR. The biosensor cells were field tested on deep aquifer water, for which contaminant levels were known, and were able to accurately detect toluene derivative contamination in this water. The biosensor cells were also shown to detect BETX (benzene, toluene, and xylene) contamination in soil samples. These results demonstrate the capability of such a bacterial biosensor to accurately measure environmental contaminants and suggest a potential for its inexpensive application in field-ready assays.