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1.  Life in an Arsenic-Containing Gold Mine: Genome and Physiology of the Autotrophic Arsenite-Oxidizing Bacterium Rhizobium sp. NT-26 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(5):934-953.
Arsenic is widespread in the environment and its presence is a result of natural or anthropogenic activities. Microbes have developed different mechanisms to deal with toxic compounds such as arsenic and this is to resist or metabolize the compound. Here, we present the first reference set of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data of an Alphaproteobacterium isolated from an arsenic-containing goldmine: Rhizobium sp. NT-26. Although phylogenetically related to the plant-associated bacteria, this organism has lost the major colonizing capabilities needed for symbiosis with legumes. In contrast, the genome of Rhizobium sp. NT-26 comprises a megaplasmid containing the various genes, which enable it to metabolize arsenite. Remarkably, although the genes required for arsenite oxidation and flagellar motility/biofilm formation are carried by the megaplasmid and the chromosome, respectively, a coordinate regulation of these two mechanisms was observed. Taken together, these processes illustrate the impact environmental pressure can have on the evolution of bacterial genomes, improving the fitness of bacterial strains by the acquisition of novel functions.
PMCID: PMC3673622  PMID: 23589360
arsenic metabolism; motility/biofilm; Rhizobium/Agrobacterium; transcriptomics/proteomics; phylogeny; rhizosphere
2.  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
3.  Non Mycobacterial Virulence Genes in the Genome of the Emerging Pathogen Mycobacterium abscessus 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5660.
Mycobacterium abscessus is an emerging rapidly growing mycobacterium (RGM) causing a pseudotuberculous lung disease to which patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) are particularly susceptible. We report here its complete genome sequence. The genome of M. abscessus (CIP 104536T) consists of a 5,067,172-bp circular chromosome including 4920 predicted coding sequences (CDS), an 81-kb full-length prophage and 5 IS elements, and a 23-kb mercury resistance plasmid almost identical to pMM23 from Mycobacterium marinum. The chromosome encodes many virulence proteins and virulence protein families absent or present in only small numbers in the model RGM species Mycobacterium smegmatis. Many of these proteins are encoded by genes belonging to a “mycobacterial” gene pool (e.g. PE and PPE proteins, MCE and YrbE proteins, lipoprotein LpqH precursors). However, many others (e.g. phospholipase C, MgtC, MsrA, ABC Fe(3+) transporter) appear to have been horizontally acquired from distantly related environmental bacteria with a high G+C content, mostly actinobacteria (e.g. Rhodococcus sp., Streptomyces sp.) and pseudomonads. We also identified several metabolic regions acquired from actinobacteria and pseudomonads (relating to phenazine biosynthesis, homogentisate catabolism, phenylacetic acid degradation, DNA degradation) not present in the M. smegmatis genome. Many of the “non mycobacterial” factors detected in M. abscessus are also present in two of the pathogens most frequently isolated from CF patients, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia. This study elucidates the genetic basis of the unique pathogenicity of M. abscessus among RGM, and raises the question of similar mechanisms of pathogenicity shared by unrelated organisms in CF patients.
PMCID: PMC2694998  PMID: 19543527
4.  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

Results 1-4 (4)