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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Legionella pneumophila pangenome reveals strain-specific virulence factors

Giuseppe D'Auria12*, Nuria Jiménez-Hernández12, Francesc Peris-Bondia3, Andrés Moya123 and Amparo Latorre123

Author Affiliations

1 CIBER en Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain

2 Area de Genómica y Salud, Centro Superior de Investigación en Salud Pública (CSISP), (Avda. de Cataluña, 21), Valencia, (46020), Spain

3 Instituto Cavanilles de Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva, Universitat de València, (Poligono La Coma s/n), Paterna, Valencia, (46071), Spain

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:181  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-181

Published: 17 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Legionella pneumophila subsp. pneumophila is a gram-negative γ-Proteobacterium and the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, a form of epidemic pneumonia. It has a water-related life cycle. In industrialized cities L. pneumophila is commonly encountered in refrigeration towers and water pipes. Infection is always via infected aerosols to humans. Although many efforts have been made to eradicate Legionella from buildings, it still contaminates the water systems. The town of Alcoy (Valencian Region, Spain) has had recurrent outbreaks since 1999. The strain "Alcoy 2300/99" is a particularly persistent and recurrent strain that was isolated during one of the most significant outbreaks between the years 1999-2000.

Results

We have sequenced the genome of the particularly persistent L. pneumophila strain Alcoy 2300/99 and have compared it with four previously sequenced strains known as Philadelphia (USA), Lens (France), Paris (France) and Corby (England).

Pangenome analysis facilitated the identification of strain-specific features, as well as some that are shared by two or more strains. We identified: (1) three islands related to anti-drug resistance systems; (2) a system for transport and secretion of heavy metals; (3) three systems related to DNA transfer; (4) two CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) systems, known to provide resistance against phage infections, one similar in the Lens and Alcoy strains, and another specific to the Paris strain; and (5) seven islands of phage-related proteins, five of which seem to be strain-specific and two shared.

Conclusions

The dispensable genome disclosed by the pangenomic analysis seems to be a reservoir of new traits that have mainly been acquired by horizontal gene transfer and could confer evolutionary advantages over strains lacking them.