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Open Access Research article

Analysis of gene order data supports vertical inheritance of the leukotoxin operon and genome rearrangements in the 5' flanking region in genus Mannheimia

Jesper Larsen1*, Peter Kuhnert2, Joachim Frey2, Henrik Christensen1, Magne Bisgaard1 and John E Olsen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Stigbøjlen 4, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark

2 Institute of Veterinary Bacteriology, University of Berne, Länggass-Strasse 122, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:184  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-184

Published: 3 October 2007

Abstract

Background

The Mannheimia subclades belong to the same bacterial genus, but have taken divergent paths toward their distinct lifestyles. For example, M. haemolytica + M. glucosida are potential pathogens of the respiratory tract in the mammalian suborder Ruminantia, whereas M. ruminalis, the supposed sister group, lives as a commensal in the ovine rumen. We have tested the hypothesis that vertical inheritance of the leukotoxin (lktCABD) operon has occurred from the last common ancestor of genus Mannheimia to any ancestor of the diverging subclades by exploring gene order data.

Results

We examined the gene order in the 5' flanking region of the leukotoxin operon and found that the 5' flanking gene strings, hslVU-lapB-artJ-lktC and xylAB-lktC, are peculiar to M. haemolytica + M. glucosida and M. granulomatis, respectively, whereas the gene string hslVU-lapB-lktC is present in M. ruminalis, the supposed sister group of M. haemolytica + M. glucosida, and in the most ancient subclade M. varigena. In M. granulomatis, we found remnants of the gene string hslVU-lapB-lktC in the xylB-lktC intergenic region.

Conclusion

These observations indicate that the gene string hslVU-lapB-lktC is more ancient than the hslVU-lapB-artJ-lktC and xylAB-lktC gene strings. The presence of (remnants of) the ancient gene string hslVU-lapB-lktC among any subclades within genus Mannheimia supports that it has been vertically inherited from the last common ancestor of genus Mannheimia to any ancestor of the diverging subclades, thus reaffirming the hypothesis of vertical inheritance of the leukotoxin operon. The presence of individual 5' flanking regions in M. haemolytica + M. glucosida and M. granulomatis reflects later genome rearrangements within each subclade. The evolution of the novel 5' flanking region in M. haemolytica + M. glucosida resulted in transcriptional coupling between the divergently arranged artJ and lkt promoters. We propose that the chimeric promoter have led to high level expression of the leukotoxin operon which could explain the increased potential of certain M. haemolytica + M. glucosida strains to cause a particular type of infection.