Vibrionaceae represent a significant portion of the cultivable heterotrophic sea bacteria; they strongly affect nutrient cycling and some species are devastating pathogens.
In this work we propose an improved phylogenetic profile analysis on 14 Vibrionaceae genomes, to study the evolution of this family on the basis of gene content.
The phylogenetic profile is based on the observation that genes involved in the same process (e.g. metabolic pathway or structural complex) tend to be concurrently present or absent within different genomes. This allows the prediction of hypothetical functions on the basis of a shared phylogenetic profiles. Moreover this approach is useful to identify putative laterally transferred elements on the basis of their presence on distantly phylogenetically related bacteria.
Vibrionaceae ORFs were aligned against all the available bacterial proteomes. Phylogenetic profile is defined as an array of distances, based on aminoacid substitution matrixes, from single genes to all their orthologues. Final phylogenetic profiles, derived from non-redundant list of all ORFs, was defined as the median of all the profiles belonging to the cluster. The resulting phylogenetic profiles matrix contains gene clusters on the rows and organisms on the columns.
Cluster analysis identified groups of "core genes" with a widespread high similarity across all the organisms and several clusters that contain genes homologous only to a limited set of organisms. On each of these clusters, COG class enrichment has been calculated. The analysis reveals that clusters of core genes have the highest number of enriched classes, while the others are enriched just for few of them like DNA replication, recombination and repair.
We found that mobile elements have heterogeneous profiles not only across the entire set of organisms, but also within Vibrionaceae; this confirms their great influence on bacteria evolution even inside the same family. Furthermore, several hypothetical proteins highly correlate with mobile elements profiles suggesting a possible horizontal transfer mechanism for the evolution of these genes. Finally, we suggested the putative role of some ORFs having an unknown function on the basis of their phylogenetic profile similarity to well characterized genes.