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1.  Transposable element-assisted evolution and adaptation to host plant within the Leptosphaeria maculans-Leptosphaeria biglobosa species complex of fungal pathogens 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):891.
Many plant-pathogenic fungi have a tendency towards genome size expansion, mostly driven by increasing content of transposable elements (TEs). Through comparative and evolutionary genomics, five members of the Leptosphaeria maculans-Leptosphaeria biglobosa species complex (class Dothideomycetes, order Pleosporales), having different host ranges and pathogenic abilities towards cruciferous plants, were studied to infer the role of TEs on genome shaping, speciation, and on the rise of better adapted pathogens.
L. maculans ‘brassicae’, the most damaging species on oilseed rape, is the only member of the species complex to have a TE-invaded genome (32.5%) compared to the other members genomes (<4%). These TEs had an impact at the structural level by creating large TE-rich regions and are suspected to have been instrumental in chromosomal rearrangements possibly leading to speciation. TEs, associated with species-specific genes involved in disease process, also possibly had an incidence on evolution of pathogenicity by promoting translocations of effector genes to highly dynamic regions and thus tuning the regulation of effector gene expression in planta.
Invasion of L. maculans ‘brassicae’ genome by TEs followed by bursts of TE activity allowed this species to evolve and to better adapt to its host, making this genome species a peculiarity within its own species complex as well as in the Pleosporales lineage.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-891) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4210507  PMID: 25306241
Comparative genomics; Fungal plant pathogen; Transposable elements; Effector genes; Speciation; Adaptation to host
2.  Comparative genomics of pathogenic lineages of Vibrio nigripulchritudo identifies virulence-associated traits 
The ISME Journal  2013;7(10):1985-1996.
Vibrio nigripulchritudo is an emerging pathogen of farmed shrimp in New Caledonia and other regions in the Indo-Pacific. The molecular determinants of V. nigripulchritudo pathogenicity are unknown; however, molecular epidemiological studies have suggested that pathogenicity is linked to particular lineages. Here, we performed high-throughput sequencing-based comparative genome analysis of 16 V. nigripulchritudo strains to explore the genomic diversity and evolutionary history of pathogen-containing lineages and to identify pathogen-specific genetic elements. Our phylogenetic analysis revealed three pathogen-containing V. nigripulchritudo clades, including two clades previously identified from New Caledonia and one novel clade comprising putatively pathogenic isolates from septicemic shrimp in Madagascar. The similar genetic distance between the three clades indicates that they have diverged from an ancestral population roughly at the same time and recombination analysis indicates that these genomes have, in the past, shared a common gene pool and exchanged genes. As each contemporary lineage is comprised of nearly identical strains, comparative genomics allowed differentiation of genetic elements specific to shrimp pathogenesis of varying severity. Notably, only a large plasmid present in all highly pathogenic (HP) strains encodes a toxin. Although less/non-pathogenic strains contain related plasmids, these are differentiated by a putative toxin locus. Expression of this gene by a non-pathogenic V. nigripulchritudo strain resulted in production of toxic culture supernatant, normally an exclusive feature of HP strains. Thus, this protein, here termed ‘nigritoxin', is implicated to an extent that remains to be precisely determined in the toxicity of V. nigripulchritudo.
PMCID: PMC3965318  PMID: 23739050
horizontal gene transfer; nigritoxin; phylogeny; shrimp; virulence; vibrio
3.  Genome analysis of smooth tubercle bacilli provides insights into ancestry and pathoadaptation of the etiologic agent of tuberculosis 
Nature genetics  2013;45(2):10.1038/ng.2517.
Global spread and genetic monomorphism are hallmarks of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the agent of human tuberculosis. In contrast, Mycobacterium canettii, and related tubercle bacilli that also cause human tuberculosis and exhibit unusual smooth colony morphology, are restricted to East-Africa. Here, we sequenced and analyzed the genomes of five representative strains of smooth tubercle bacilli (STB) using Sanger (4-5x coverage), 454/Roche (13-18x coverage) and/or Illumina DNA sequencing (45-105x coverage). We show that STB are highly recombinogenic and evolutionary early-branching, with larger genome sizes, 25-fold more SNPs, fewer molecular scars and distinct CRISPR-Cas systems relative to M. tuberculosis. Despite the differences, all tuberculosis-causing mycobacteria share a highly conserved core genome. Mouse-infection experiments revealed that STB are less persistent and virulent than M. tuberculosis. We conclude that M. tuberculosis emerged from an ancestral, STB-like pool of mycobacteria by gain of persistence and virulence mechanisms and we provide genome-wide insights into the molecular events involved.
PMCID: PMC3856870  PMID: 23291586
4.  The Nocardia cyriacigeorgica GUH-2 genome shows ongoing adaptation of an environmental Actinobacteria to a pathogen’s lifestyle 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:286.
Nocardia cyriacigeorgica is recognized as one of the most prevalent etiological agents of human nocardiosis. Human exposure to these Actinobacteria stems from direct contact with contaminated environmental matrices. The full genome sequence of N. cyriacigeorgica strain GUH-2 was studied to infer major trends in its evolution, including the acquisition of novel genetic elements that could explain its ability to thrive in multiple habitats.
N. cyriacigeorgica strain GUH-2 genome size is 6.19 Mb-long, 82.7% of its CDS have homologs in at least another actinobacterial genome, and 74.5% of these are found in N. farcinica. Among N. cyriacigeorgica specific CDS, some are likely implicated in niche specialization such as those involved in denitrification and RuBisCO production, and are found in regions of genomic plasticity (RGP). Overall, 22 RGP were identified in this genome, representing 11.4% of its content. Some of these RGP encode a recombinase and IS elements which are indicative of genomic instability. CDS playing part in virulence were identified in this genome such as those involved in mammalian cell entry or encoding a superoxide dismutase. CDS encoding non ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS) and polyketide synthases (PKS) were identified, with some being likely involved in the synthesis of siderophores and toxins. COG analyses showed this genome to have an organization similar to environmental Actinobacteria.
N. cyriacigeorgica GUH-2 genome shows features suggesting a diversification from an ancestral saprophytic state. GUH-2 ability at acquiring foreign DNA was found significant and to have led to functional changes likely beneficial for its environmental cycle and opportunistic colonization of a human host.
PMCID: PMC3751702  PMID: 23622346
Nocardia cyriacigeorgica; Regions of genomic plasticity; Insertion sequences; COG; Evolution; Opportunistic pathogen
5.  Reductive evolution in Streptococcus agalactiae and the emergence of a host adapted lineage 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:252.
During host specialization, inactivation of genes whose function is no more required is favored by changes in selective constraints and evolutionary bottlenecks. The Gram positive bacteria Streptococcus agalactiae (also called GBS), responsible for septicemia and meningitis in neonates also emerged during the seventies as a cause of severe epidemics in fish farms. To decipher the genetic basis for the emergence of these highly virulent GBS strains and of their adaptation to fish, we have analyzed the genomic sequence of seven strains isolated from fish and other poikilotherms.
Comparative analysis shows that the two groups of GBS strains responsible for fish epidemic diseases are only distantly related. While strains belonging to the clonal complex 7 cannot be distinguished from their human CC7 counterparts according to their gene content, strains belonging to the ST260-261 types probably diverged a long time ago. In this lineage, specialization to the fish host was correlated with a massive gene inactivation and broad changes in gene expression. We took advantage of the low level of sequence divergence between GBS strains and of the emergence of sublineages to reconstruct the different steps involved in this process. Non-homologous recombination was found to have played a major role in the genome erosion.
Our results show that the early phase of genome reduction during host specialization mostly involves accumulation of small and likely reversible indels, followed by a second evolutionary step marked by a higher frequency of large deletions.
PMCID: PMC3637634  PMID: 23586779
Streptococcus agalactiae; Host-adaptation; Non-homologous recombination; Gene inactivation; Virulence
6.  Genome Sequence of the Marine Bacterium Marinobacter hydrocarbonoclasticus SP17, Which Forms Biofilms on Hydrophobic Organic Compounds 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(13):3539-3540.
Marinobacter hydrocarbonoclasticus SP17 forms biofilms specifically at the interface between water and hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs) that are used as carbon and energy sources. Biofilm formation at the HOC-water interface has been recognized as a strategy to overcome the low availability of these nearly water-insoluble substrates. Here, we present the genome sequence of SP17, which could provide further insights into the mechanisms of enhancement of HOCs assimilation through biofilm formation.
PMCID: PMC3434751  PMID: 22689231
7.  Virulence of an emerging pathogenic lineage of Vibrio nigripulchritudo is dependent on two plasmids 
Environmental Microbiology  2010;13(2):296-306.
Vibrioses are the predominant bacterial infections in marine shrimp farms. Vibrio nigripulchritudo is an emerging pathogen of the cultured shrimp Litopenaeus stylirostris in New Caledonia and other regions in the Indo-Pacific. The molecular determinants of V. nigripulchritudo pathogenicity are unknown; however, molecular epidemiological studies have revealed that recent pathogenic V. nigripulchritudo isolates from New Caledonia all cluster into a monophyletic clade and contain a small plasmid, pB1067. Here, we report that a large plasmid, pA1066 (247 kb), can also serve as a marker for virulent V. nigripulchritudo, and that an ancestral version of this plasmid was likely acquired prior to other virulence-linked markers. Additionally, we demonstrate that pA1066 is critical for the full virulence of V. nigripulchritudo in several newly developed experimental models of infection. Plasmid pB1067 also contributes to virulence; only strains containing both plasmids induced the highest level of shrimp mortality. Thus, it appears that these plasmids, which are absent from non-pathogenic isolates, may be driving forces, as well as markers, for the emergence of a pathogenic lineage of V. nigripulchritudo.
PMCID: PMC3020234  PMID: 20825454
8.  Genomic insights into strategies used by Xanthomonas albilineans with its reduced artillery to spread within sugarcane xylem vessels 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:658.
Xanthomonas albilineans causes leaf scald, a lethal disease of sugarcane. X. albilineans exhibits distinctive pathogenic mechanisms, ecology and taxonomy compared to other species of Xanthomonas. For example, this species produces a potent DNA gyrase inhibitor called albicidin that is largely responsible for inducing disease symptoms; its habitat is limited to xylem; and the species exhibits large variability. A first manuscript on the complete genome sequence of the highly pathogenic X. albilineans strain GPE PC73 focused exclusively on distinctive genomic features shared with Xylella fastidiosa—another xylem-limited Xanthomonadaceae. The present manuscript on the same genome sequence aims to describe all other pathogenicity-related genomic features of X. albilineans, and to compare, using suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH), genomic features of two strains differing in pathogenicity.
Comparative genomic analyses showed that most of the known pathogenicity factors from other Xanthomonas species are conserved in X. albilineans, with the notable absence of two major determinants of the “artillery” of other plant pathogenic species of Xanthomonas: the xanthan gum biosynthesis gene cluster, and the type III secretion system Hrp (hypersensitive response and pathogenicity). Genomic features specific to X. albilineans that may contribute to specific adaptation of this pathogen to sugarcane xylem vessels were also revealed. SSH experiments led to the identification of 20 genes common to three highly pathogenic strains but missing in a less pathogenic strain. These 20 genes, which include four ABC transporter genes, a methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein gene and an oxidoreductase gene, could play a key role in pathogenicity. With the exception of hypothetical proteins revealed by our comparative genomic analyses and SSH experiments, no genes potentially involved in any offensive or counter-defensive mechanism specific to X. albilineans were identified, supposing that X. albilineans has a reduced artillery compared to other pathogenic Xanthomonas species. Particular attention has therefore been given to genomic features specific to X. albilineans making it more capable of evading sugarcane surveillance systems or resisting sugarcane defense systems.
This study confirms that X. albilineans is a highly distinctive species within the genus Xanthomonas, and opens new perpectives towards a greater understanding of the pathogenicity of this destructive sugarcane pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3542200  PMID: 23171051
9.  Genome Sequence of the Human- and Animal-Pathogenic Strain Nocardia cyriacigeorgica GUH-2 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(8):2098-2099.
The pathogenic strain Nocardia cyriacigeorgica GUH-2 was isolated from a fatal human nocardiosis case, and its genome was sequenced. The complete genomic sequence of this strain contains 6,194,645 bp, an average G+C content of 68.37%, and no plasmids. We also identified several protein-coding genes to which N. cyriacigeorgica's virulence can potentially be attributed.
PMCID: PMC3318486  PMID: 22461543
10.  Genome Sequence of the Haloalkaliphilic Methanotrophic Bacterium Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(2):551-552.
Methylomicrobium strains are widespread in saline environments. Here, we report the complete genome sequence of Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z, a haloalkaliphilic methanotrophic bacterium, which will provide the basis for detailed characterization of the core pathways of both single-carbon metabolism and responses to osmotic and high-pH stresses. Final assembly of the genome sequence revealed that this bacterium contains a 128-kb plasmid, making M. alcaliphilum 20Z the first methanotrophic bacterium of known genome sequence for which a plasmid has been reported.
PMCID: PMC3256673  PMID: 22207753
11.  Contrasted Patterns of Molecular Evolution in Dominant and Recessive Self-Incompatibility Haplotypes in Arabidopsis 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002495.
Self-incompatibility has been considered by geneticists a model system for reproductive biology and balancing selection, but our understanding of the genetic basis and evolution of this molecular lock-and-key system has remained limited by the extreme level of sequence divergence among haplotypes, resulting in a lack of appropriate genomic sequences. In this study, we report and analyze the full sequence of eleven distinct haplotypes of the self-incompatibility locus (S-locus) in two closely related Arabidopsis species, obtained from individual BAC libraries. We use this extensive dataset to highlight sharply contrasted patterns of molecular evolution of each of the two genes controlling self-incompatibility themselves, as well as of the genomic region surrounding them. We find strong collinearity of the flanking regions among haplotypes on each side of the S-locus together with high levels of sequence similarity. In contrast, the S-locus region itself shows spectacularly deep gene genealogies, high variability in size and gene organization, as well as complete absence of sequence similarity in intergenic sequences and striking accumulation of transposable elements. Of particular interest, we demonstrate that dominant and recessive S-haplotypes experience sharply contrasted patterns of molecular evolution. Indeed, dominant haplotypes exhibit larger size and a much higher density of transposable elements, being matched only by that in the centromere. Overall, these properties highlight that the S-locus presents many striking similarities with other regions involved in the determination of mating-types, such as sex chromosomes in animals or in plants, or the mating-type locus in fungi and green algae.
Author Summary
Self-incompatibility is a common genetic system preventing selfing through recognition and rejection of self-pollen in hermaphroditic flowering plants. In the Brassicaceae family, this system is controlled by a single genomic region, called the S-locus, where many distinct specificities segregate in natural populations. In this study, we obtained genomic sequences comprising the S-locus in two closely related Brassicaceae species, Arabidopsis lyrata and A. halleri, and analyzed their diversity and patterns of molecular evolution. We report compelling evidence that the S-locus presents many similar properties with other genomic regions involved in the determination of mating-types in mammals, insects, plants, or fungi. In particular, in spite of their diversity, these genomic regions all show absence of similarity in intergenic sequences, large depth of genealogies, highly divergent organization, and accumulation of transposable elements. Moreover, some of these features were found to vary according to dominance of the S-locus specificities, suggesting that dominance/recessivity interactions are key drivers of the evolution of this genomic region.
PMCID: PMC3310759  PMID: 22457631
12.  Complete Genome Sequence of Streptomyces cattleya NRRL 8057, a Producer of Antibiotics and Fluorometabolites 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(18):5055-5056.
Streptomyces cattleya, a producer of the antibiotics thienamycin and cephamycin C, is one of the rare bacteria known to synthesize fluorinated metabolites. The genome consists of two linear replicons. The genes involved in fluorine metabolism and in the biosynthesis of the antibiotic thienamycin were mapped on both replicons.
PMCID: PMC3165681  PMID: 21868806
13.  Virulence of an emerging pathogenic lineage of Vibrio nigripulchritudo is dependant on two plasmids 
Environmental microbiology  2010;13(2):296-306.
Vibrioses are the predominant bacterial infections in marine shrimp farms. Vibrio nigripulchritudo is an emerging pathogen of the cultured shrimp Litopenaeus stylirostris in New Caledonia and other regions in the Indo-Pacific. The molecular determinants of V. nigripulchritudo pathogenicity are unknown; however, molecular epidemiological studies have revealed that recent pathogenic V. nigripulchritudo isolates from New Caledonia all cluster into a monophyletic clade and contain a small plasmid, pB1067. Here, we report that a large plasmid, pA1066 (247kb), can also serve as a marker for virulent V. nigripulchritudo, and that an ancestral version of this plasmid was likely acquired prior to other virulence-linked markers. Additionally, we demonstrate that pA1066 is critical for the full virulence of V. nigripulchritudo in several newly developed experimental models of infection. Plasmid pB1067 also contributes to virulence; only strains containing both plasmids induced the highest level of shrimp mortality. Thus, it appears that these plasmids, which are absent from nonpathogenic isolates, may be driving forces, as well as markers, for the emergence of a pathogenic lineage of V. nigripulchritudo.
PMCID: PMC3020234  PMID: 20825454
14.  Azospirillum Genomes Reveal Transition of Bacteria from Aquatic to Terrestrial Environments 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002430.
Fossil records indicate that life appeared in marine environments ∼3.5 billion years ago (Gyr) and transitioned to terrestrial ecosystems nearly 2.5 Gyr. Sequence analysis suggests that “hydrobacteria” and “terrabacteria” might have diverged as early as 3 Gyr. Bacteria of the genus Azospirillum are associated with roots of terrestrial plants; however, virtually all their close relatives are aquatic. We obtained genome sequences of two Azospirillum species and analyzed their gene origins. While most Azospirillum house-keeping genes have orthologs in its close aquatic relatives, this lineage has obtained nearly half of its genome from terrestrial organisms. The majority of genes encoding functions critical for association with plants are among horizontally transferred genes. Our results show that transition of some aquatic bacteria to terrestrial habitats occurred much later than the suggested initial divergence of hydro- and terrabacterial clades. The birth of the genus Azospirillum approximately coincided with the emergence of vascular plants on land.
Author Summary
Genome sequencing and analysis of plant-associated beneficial soil bacteria Azospirillum spp. reveals that these organisms transitioned from aquatic to terrestrial environments significantly later than the suggested major Precambrian divergence of aquatic and terrestrial bacteria. Separation of Azospirillum from their close aquatic relatives coincided with the emergence of vascular plants on land. Nearly half of the Azospirillum genome has been acquired horizontally, from distantly related terrestrial bacteria. The majority of horizontally acquired genes encode functions that are critical for adaptation to the rhizosphere and interaction with host plants.
PMCID: PMC3245306  PMID: 22216014
15.  Ralstonia syzygii, the Blood Disease Bacterium and Some Asian R. solanacearum Strains Form a Single Genomic Species Despite Divergent Lifestyles 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24356.
The Ralstonia solanacearum species complex includes R. solanacearum, R. syzygii, and the Blood Disease Bacterium (BDB). All colonize plant xylem vessels and cause wilt diseases, but with significant biological differences. R. solanacearum is a soilborne bacterium that infects the roots of a broad range of plants. R. syzygii causes Sumatra disease of clove trees and is actively transmitted by cercopoid insects. BDB is also pathogenic to a single host, banana, and is transmitted by pollinating insects. Sequencing and DNA-DNA hybridization studies indicated that despite their phenotypic differences, these three plant pathogens are actually very closely related, falling into the Phylotype IV subgroup of the R. solanacearum species complex. To better understand the relationships among these bacteria, we sequenced and annotated the genomes of R. syzygii strain R24 and BDB strain R229. These genomes were compared to strain PSI07, a closely related Phylotype IV tomato isolate of R. solanacearum, and to five additional R. solanacearum genomes. Whole-genome comparisons confirmed previous phylogenetic results: the three phylotype IV strains share more and larger syntenic regions with each other than with other R. solanacearum strains. Furthermore, the genetic distances between strains, assessed by an in-silico equivalent of DNA-DNA hybridization, unambiguously showed that phylotype IV strains of BDB, R. syzygii and R. solanacearum form one genomic species. Based on these comprehensive data we propose a revision of the taxonomy of the R. solanacearum species complex. The BDB and R. syzygii genomes encoded no obvious unique metabolic capacities and contained no evidence of horizontal gene transfer from bacteria occupying similar niches. Genes specific to R. syzygii and BDB were almost all of unknown function or extrachromosomal origin. Thus, the pathogenic life-styles of these organisms are more probably due to ecological adaptation and genomic convergence during vertical evolution than to the acquisition of DNA by horizontal transfer.
PMCID: PMC3169583  PMID: 21931687
16.  Genomes of three tomato pathogens within the Ralstonia solanacearum species complex reveal significant evolutionary divergence 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:379.
The Ralstonia solanacearum species complex includes thousands of strains pathogenic to an unusually wide range of plant species. These globally dispersed and heterogeneous strains cause bacterial wilt diseases, which have major socio-economic impacts. Pathogenicity is an ancestral trait in R. solanacearum and strains with high genetic variation can be subdivided into four phylotypes, correlating to isolates from Asia (phylotype I), the Americas (phylotype IIA and IIB), Africa (phylotype III) and Indonesia (phylotype IV). Comparison of genome sequences strains representative of this phylogenetic diversity can help determine which traits allow this bacterium to be such a pathogen of so many different plant species and how the bacteria survive in many different habitats.
The genomes of three tomato bacterial wilt pathogens, CFBP2957 (phy. IIA), CMR15 (phy. III) and PSI07 (phy. IV) were sequenced and manually annotated. These genomes were compared with those of three previously sequenced R. solanacearum strains: GMI1000 (tomato, phy. I), IPO1609 (potato, phy. IIB), and Molk2 (banana, phy. IIB). The major genomic features (size, G+C content, number of genes) were conserved across all of the six sequenced strains. Despite relatively high genetic distances (calculated from average nucleotide identity) and many genomic rearrangements, more than 60% of the genes of the megaplasmid and 70% of those on the chromosome are syntenic. The three new genomic sequences revealed the presence of several previously unknown traits, probably acquired by horizontal transfers, within the genomes of R. solanacearum, including a type IV secretion system, a rhi-type anti-mitotic toxin and two small plasmids. Genes involved in virulence appear to be evolving at a faster rate than the genome as a whole.
Comparative analysis of genome sequences and gene content confirmed the differentiation of R. solanacearum species complex strains into four phylotypes. Genetic distances between strains, in conjunction with CGH analysis of a larger set of strains, revealed differences great enough to consider reclassification of the R. solanacearum species complex into three species. The data are still too fragmentary to link genomic classification and phenotypes, but these new genome sequences identify a pan-genome more representative of the diversity in the R. solanancearum species complex.
PMCID: PMC2900269  PMID: 20550686
17.  Comparative genomic and proteomic analyses of two Mycoplasma agalactiae strains: clues to the macro- and micro-events that are shaping mycoplasma diversity 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:86.
While the genomic era is accumulating a tremendous amount of data, the question of how genomics can describe a bacterial species remains to be fully addressed. The recent sequencing of the genome of the Mycoplasma agalactiae type strain has challenged our general view on mycoplasmas by suggesting that these simple bacteria are able to exchange significant amount of genetic material via horizontal gene transfer. Yet, events that are shaping mycoplasma genomes and that are underlining diversity within this species have to be fully evaluated. For this purpose, we compared two strains that are representative of the genetic spectrum encountered in this species: the type strain PG2 which genome is already available and a field strain, 5632, which was fully sequenced and annotated in this study.
The two genomes differ by ca. 130 kbp with that of 5632 being the largest (1006 kbp). The make up of this additional genetic material mainly corresponds (i) to mobile genetic elements and (ii) to expanded repertoire of gene families that encode putative surface proteins and display features of highly-variable systems. More specifically, three entire copies of a previously described integrative conjugative element are found in 5632 that accounts for ca. 80 kbp. Other mobile genetic elements, found in 5632 but not in PG2, are the more classical insertion sequences which are related to those found in two other ruminant pathogens, M. bovis and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides SC. In 5632, repertoires of gene families encoding surface proteins are larger due to gene duplication. Comparative proteomic analyses of the two strains indicate that the additional coding capacity of 5632 affects the overall architecture of the surface and suggests the occurrence of new phase variable systems based on single nucleotide polymorphisms.
Overall, comparative analyses of two M. agalactiae strains revealed a very dynamic genome which structure has been shaped by gene flow among ruminant mycoplasmas and expansion-reduction of gene repertoires encoding surface proteins, the expression of which is driven by localized genetic micro-events.
PMCID: PMC2824730  PMID: 20122262
18.  Occurrence, Plasticity, and Evolution of the vpma Gene Family, a Genetic System Devoted to High-Frequency Surface Variation in Mycoplasma agalactiae▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(13):4111-4121.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, an important pathogen of small ruminants, exhibits a very versatile surface architecture by switching multiple, related lipoproteins (Vpmas) on and off. In the type strain, PG2, Vpma phase variation is generated by a cluster of six vpma genes that undergo frequent DNA rearrangements via site-specific recombination. To further comprehend the degree of diversity that can be generated at the M. agalactiae surface, the vpma gene repertoire of a field strain, 5632, was analyzed and shown to contain an extended repertoire of 23 vpma genes distributed between two loci located 250 kbp apart. Loci I and II include 16 and 7 vpma genes, respectively, with all vpma genes of locus II being duplicated at locus I. Several Vpmas displayed a chimeric structure suggestive of homologous recombination, and a global proteomic analysis further indicated that at least 13 of the 16 Vpmas can be expressed by the 5632 strain. Because a single promoter is present in each vpma locus, concomitant Vpma expression can occur in a strain with duplicated loci. Consequently, the number of possible surface combinations is much higher for strain 5632 than for the type strain. Finally, our data suggested that insertion sequences are likely to be involved in 5632 vpma locus duplication at a remote chromosomal position. The role of such mobile genetic elements in chromosomal shuffling of genes encoding major surface components may have important evolutionary and epidemiological consequences for pathogens, such as mycoplasmas, that have a reduced genome and no cell wall.
PMCID: PMC2698505  PMID: 19376859
19.  The complete genome sequence of Xanthomonas albilineans provides new insights into the reductive genome evolution of the xylem-limited Xanthomonadaceae 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:616.
The Xanthomonadaceae family contains two xylem-limited plant pathogenic bacterial species, Xanthomonas albilineans and Xylella fastidiosa. X. fastidiosa was the first completely sequenced plant pathogen. It is insect-vectored, has a reduced genome and does not possess hrp genes which encode a Type III secretion system found in most plant pathogenic bacteria. X. fastidiosa was excluded from the Xanthomonas group based on phylogenetic analyses with rRNA sequences.
The complete genome of X. albilineans was sequenced and annotated. X. albilineans, which is not known to be insect-vectored, also has a reduced genome and does not possess hrp genes. Phylogenetic analysis using X. albilineans genomic sequences showed that X. fastidiosa belongs to the Xanthomonas group. Order of divergence of the Xanthomonadaceae revealed that X. albilineans and X. fastidiosa experienced a convergent reductive genome evolution during their descent from the progenitor of the Xanthomonas genus. Reductive genome evolutions of the two xylem-limited Xanthomonadaceae were compared in light of their genome characteristics and those of obligate animal symbionts and pathogens.
The two xylem-limited Xanthomonadaceae, during their descent from a common ancestral parent, experienced a convergent reductive genome evolution. Adaptation to the nutrient-poor xylem elements and to the cloistered environmental niche of xylem vessels probably favoured this convergent evolution. However, genome characteristics of X. albilineans differ from those of X. fastidiosa and obligate animal symbionts and pathogens, indicating that a distinctive process was responsible for the reductive genome evolution in this pathogen. The possible role in genome reduction of the unique toxin albicidin, produced by X. albilineans, is discussed.
PMCID: PMC2810307  PMID: 20017926
20.  Methylobacterium Genome Sequences: A Reference Blueprint to Investigate Microbial Metabolism of C1 Compounds from Natural and Industrial Sources 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5584.
Methylotrophy describes the ability of organisms to grow on reduced organic compounds without carbon-carbon bonds. The genomes of two pink-pigmented facultative methylotrophic bacteria of the Alpha-proteobacterial genus Methylobacterium, the reference species Methylobacterium extorquens strain AM1 and the dichloromethane-degrading strain DM4, were compared.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The 6.88 Mb genome of strain AM1 comprises a 5.51 Mb chromosome, a 1.26 Mb megaplasmid and three plasmids, while the 6.12 Mb genome of strain DM4 features a 5.94 Mb chromosome and two plasmids. The chromosomes are highly syntenic and share a large majority of genes, while plasmids are mostly strain-specific, with the exception of a 130 kb region of the strain AM1 megaplasmid which is syntenic to a chromosomal region of strain DM4. Both genomes contain large sets of insertion elements, many of them strain-specific, suggesting an important potential for genomic plasticity. Most of the genomic determinants associated with methylotrophy are nearly identical, with two exceptions that illustrate the metabolic and genomic versatility of Methylobacterium. A 126 kb dichloromethane utilization (dcm) gene cluster is essential for the ability of strain DM4 to use DCM as the sole carbon and energy source for growth and is unique to strain DM4. The methylamine utilization (mau) gene cluster is only found in strain AM1, indicating that strain DM4 employs an alternative system for growth with methylamine. The dcm and mau clusters represent two of the chromosomal genomic islands (AM1: 28; DM4: 17) that were defined. The mau cluster is flanked by mobile elements, but the dcm cluster disrupts a gene annotated as chelatase and for which we propose the name “island integration determinant” (iid).
These two genome sequences provide a platform for intra- and interspecies genomic comparisons in the genus Methylobacterium, and for investigations of the adaptive mechanisms which allow bacterial lineages to acquire methylotrophic lifestyles.
PMCID: PMC2680597  PMID: 19440302
21.  Organised Genome Dynamics in the Escherichia coli Species Results in Highly Diverse Adaptive Paths 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(1):e1000344.
The Escherichia coli species represents one of the best-studied model organisms, but also encompasses a variety of commensal and pathogenic strains that diversify by high rates of genetic change. We uniformly (re-) annotated the genomes of 20 commensal and pathogenic E. coli strains and one strain of E. fergusonii (the closest E. coli related species), including seven that we sequenced to completion. Within the ∼18,000 families of orthologous genes, we found ∼2,000 common to all strains. Although recombination rates are much higher than mutation rates, we show, both theoretically and using phylogenetic inference, that this does not obscure the phylogenetic signal, which places the B2 phylogenetic group and one group D strain at the basal position. Based on this phylogeny, we inferred past evolutionary events of gain and loss of genes, identifying functional classes under opposite selection pressures. We found an important adaptive role for metabolism diversification within group B2 and Shigella strains, but identified few or no extraintestinal virulence-specific genes, which could render difficult the development of a vaccine against extraintestinal infections. Genome flux in E. coli is confined to a small number of conserved positions in the chromosome, which most often are not associated with integrases or tRNA genes. Core genes flanking some of these regions show higher rates of recombination, suggesting that a gene, once acquired by a strain, spreads within the species by homologous recombination at the flanking genes. Finally, the genome's long-scale structure of recombination indicates lower recombination rates, but not higher mutation rates, at the terminus of replication. The ensuing effect of background selection and biased gene conversion may thus explain why this region is A+T-rich and shows high sequence divergence but low sequence polymorphism. Overall, despite a very high gene flow, genes co-exist in an organised genome.
Author Summary
Although abundant knowledge has been accumulated regarding the E. coli laboratory strain K-12, little is known about the evolutionary trajectories that have driven the high diversity observed among natural isolates of the species, which encompass both commensal and highly virulent intestinal and extraintestinal pathogenic strains. We have annotated or re-annotated the genomes of 20 commensal and pathogenic E. coli strains and one strain of E. fergusonii (the closest E. coli related species), including seven that we sequenced to completion. Although recombination rates are much higher than mutation rates, we were able to reconstruct a robust phylogeny based on the ∼2,000 genes common to all strains. Based on this phylogeny, we established the evolutionary scenario of gains and losses of thousands of specific genes, identifying functional classes under opposite selection pressures. This genome flux is confined to very few positions in the chromosome, which are the same for every genome. Notably, we identified few or no extraintestinal virulence-specific genes. We also defined a long-scale structure of recombination in the genome with lower recombination rates at the terminus of replication. These findings demonstrate that, despite a very high gene flow, genes can co-exist in an organised genome.
PMCID: PMC2617782  PMID: 19165319
22.  High quality draft sequences for prokaryotic genomes using a mix of new sequencing technologies 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:603.
Massively parallel DNA sequencing instruments are enabling the decoding of whole genomes at significantly lower cost and higher throughput than classical Sanger technology. Each of these technologies have been estimated to yield assemblies with more problematic features than the standard method. These problems are of a different nature depending on the techniques used. So, an appropriate mix of technologies may help resolve most difficulties, and eventually provide assemblies of high quality without requiring any Sanger-based input.
We compared assemblies obtained using Sanger data with those from different inputs from New Sequencing Technologies. The assemblies were systematically compared with a reference finished sequence. We found that the 454 GSFLX can efficiently produce high continuity when used at high coverage. The potential to enhance continuity by scaffolding was tested using 454 sequences from circularized genomic fragments. Finally, we explore the use of Solexa-Illumina short reads to polish the genome draft by implementing a technique to correct 454 consensus errors.
High quality drafts can be produced for small genomes without any Sanger data input. We found that 454 GSFLX and Solexa/Illumina show great complementarity in producing large contigs and supercontigs with a low error rate.
PMCID: PMC2625371  PMID: 19087275
23.  Comparative Analysis of Acinetobacters: Three Genomes for Three Lifestyles 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1805.
Acinetobacter baumannii is the source of numerous nosocomial infections in humans and therefore deserves close attention as multidrug or even pandrug resistant strains are increasingly being identified worldwide. Here we report the comparison of two newly sequenced genomes of A. baumannii. The human isolate A. baumannii AYE is multidrug resistant whereas strain SDF, which was isolated from body lice, is antibiotic susceptible. As reference for comparison in this analysis, the genome of the soil-living bacterium A. baylyi strain ADP1 was used. The most interesting dissimilarities we observed were that i) whereas strain AYE and A. baylyi genomes harbored very few Insertion Sequence elements which could promote expression of downstream genes, strain SDF sequence contains several hundred of them that have played a crucial role in its genome reduction (gene disruptions and simple DNA loss); ii) strain SDF has low catabolic capacities compared to strain AYE. Interestingly, the latter has even higher catabolic capacities than A. baylyi which has already been reported as a very nutritionally versatile organism. This metabolic performance could explain the persistence of A. baumannii nosocomial strains in environments where nutrients are scarce; iii) several processes known to play a key role during host infection (biofilm formation, iron uptake, quorum sensing, virulence factors) were either different or absent, the best example of which is iron uptake. Indeed, strain AYE and A. baylyi use siderophore-based systems to scavenge iron from the environment whereas strain SDF uses an alternate system similar to the Haem Acquisition System (HAS). Taken together, all these observations suggest that the genome contents of the 3 Acinetobacters compared are partly shaped by life in distinct ecological niches: human (and more largely hospital environment), louse, soil.
PMCID: PMC2265553  PMID: 18350144
24.  Being Pathogenic, Plastic, and Sexual while Living with a Nearly Minimal Bacterial Genome 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(5):e75.
Mycoplasmas are commonly described as the simplest self-replicating organisms, whose evolution was mainly characterized by genome downsizing with a proposed evolutionary scenario similar to that of obligate intracellular bacteria such as insect endosymbionts. Thus far, analysis of mycoplasma genomes indicates a low level of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) implying that DNA acquisition is strongly limited in these minimal bacteria. In this study, the genome of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae was sequenced. Comparative genomic data and phylogenetic tree reconstruction revealed that ∼18% of its small genome (877,438 bp) has undergone HGT with the phylogenetically distinct mycoides cluster, which is composed of significant ruminant pathogens. HGT involves genes often found as clusters, several of which encode lipoproteins that usually play an important role in mycoplasma–host interaction. A decayed form of a conjugative element also described in a member of the mycoides cluster was found in the M. agalactiae genome, suggesting that HGT may have occurred by mobilizing a related genetic element. The possibility of HGT events among other mycoplasmas was evaluated with the available sequenced genomes. Our data indicate marginal levels of HGT among Mycoplasma species except for those described above and, to a lesser extent, for those observed in between the two bird pathogens, M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. This first description of large-scale HGT among mycoplasmas sharing the same ecological niche challenges the generally accepted evolutionary scenario in which gene loss is the main driving force of mycoplasma evolution. The latter clearly differs from that of other bacteria with small genomes, particularly obligate intracellular bacteria that are isolated within host cells. Consequently, mycoplasmas are not only able to subvert complex hosts but presumably have retained sexual competence, a trait that may prevent them from genome stasis and contribute to adaptation to new hosts.
Author Summary
Mycoplasmas are cell wall–lacking prokaryotes that evolved from ancestors common to Gram-positive bacteria by way of massive losses of genetic material. With their minimal genome, mycoplasmas are considered to be the simplest free-living organisms, yet several species are successful pathogens of man and animal. In this study, we challenged the commonly accepted view in which mycoplasma evolution is driven only by genome down-sizing. Indeed, we showed that a significant amount of genes underwent horizontal transfer among different mycoplasma species that share the same ruminant hosts. In these species, the occurrence of a genetic element that can promote DNA transfer via cell-to-cell contact suggests that some mycoplasmas may have retained or acquired sexual competence. Transferred genes were found to encode proteins that are likely to be associated with mycoplasma–host interactions. Sharing genetic resources via horizontal gene transfer may provide mycoplasmas with a means for adapting to new niches or to new hosts and for avoiding irreversible genome erosion.
PMCID: PMC1868952  PMID: 17511520
25.  A Tale of Two Oxidation States: Bacterial Colonization of Arsenic-Rich Environments 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(4):e53.
Microbial biotransformations have a major impact on contamination by toxic elements, which threatens public health in developing and industrial countries. Finding a means of preserving natural environments—including ground and surface waters—from arsenic constitutes a major challenge facing modern society. Although this metalloid is ubiquitous on Earth, thus far no bacterium thriving in arsenic-contaminated environments has been fully characterized. In-depth exploration of the genome of the β-proteobacterium Herminiimonas arsenicoxydans with regard to physiology, genetics, and proteomics, revealed that it possesses heretofore unsuspected mechanisms for coping with arsenic. Aside from multiple biochemical processes such as arsenic oxidation, reduction, and efflux, H. arsenicoxydans also exhibits positive chemotaxis and motility towards arsenic and metalloid scavenging by exopolysaccharides. These observations demonstrate the existence of a novel strategy to efficiently colonize arsenic-rich environments, which extends beyond oxidoreduction reactions. Such a microbial mechanism of detoxification, which is possibly exploitable for bioremediation applications of contaminated sites, may have played a crucial role in the occupation of ancient ecological niches on earth.
Author Summary
Microorganisms play a crucial role in nutrient biogeochemical cycles. Arsenic is found throughout the environment from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Its inorganic forms are highly toxic and impair the physiology of most higher organisms. Arsenic contamination of groundwater supplies is giving rise to increasingly severe human health problems in both developing and industrial countries. In the present work, we investigated the metabolism of this metalloid in Herminiimonas arsenicoxydans, a representative organism of a novel bacterial genus widespread in aquatic environments. Examination of the genome sequence and experimental evidence revealed that it is remarkably capable of coping with arsenic. Our observations support the existence of multiple strategies allowing arsenic-metabolizing microbes to efficiently colonize toxic environments. In particular, arsenic oxidation and scavenging may have played a crucial role in the development of early stages of life on Earth. Such mechanisms may one day be exploited as part of a potential bioremediation strategy in toxic environments.
PMCID: PMC1851979  PMID: 17432936

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