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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Genome-wide evidence for positive selection and recombination in Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae

Zhuofei Xu, Huanchun Chen* and Rui Zhou*

Author affiliations

Division of Animal Infectious Disease, State Key Laboratory of Agricultural Microbiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:203  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-203

Published: 13 July 2011



Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae is an economically important animal pathogen that causes contagious pleuropneumonia in pigs. Currently, the molecular evolutionary trajectories for this pathogenic bacterium remain to require a better elucidation under the help of comparative genomics data. For this reason, we employed a comparative phylogenomic approach to obtain a comprehensive understanding of roles of natural selective pressure and homologous recombination during adaptation of this pathogen to its swine host.


In this study, 12 A. pleuropneumoniae genomes were used to carry out a phylogenomic analyses. We identified 1,587 orthologous core genes as an initial data set for the estimation of genetic recombination and positive selection. Based on the analyses of four recombination tests, 23% of the core genome of A. pleuropneumoniae showed strong signals for intragenic homologous recombination. Furthermore, the selection analyses indicated that 57 genes were undergoing significant positive selection. Extensive function properties underlying these positively selected genes demonstrated that genes coding for products relevant to bacterial surface structures and pathogenesis are prone to natural selective pressure, presumably due to their potential roles in the avoidance of the porcine immune system.


Overall, substantial genetic evidence was shown to indicate that recombination and positive selection indeed play a crucial role in the adaptive evolution of A. pleuropneumoniae. The genome-wide profile of positively selected genes and/or amino acid residues will provide valuable targets for further research into the mechanisms of immune evasion and host-pathogen interactions for this serious swine pathogen.