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Open Access Research article

Comparative genomics of the family Vibrionaceae reveals the wide distribution of genes encoding virulence-associated proteins

Timothy G Lilburn1*, Jianying Gu2*, Hong Cai3 and Yufeng Wang34*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bacteriology, ATCC, Manassas, VA 20110, USA

2 Department of Biology, College of Staten Island, City University of New York, Staten Island, NY 10314, USA

3 Department of Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249, USA

4 South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249, USA

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:369  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-369

Published: 10 June 2010



Species of the family Vibrionaceae are ubiquitous in marine environments. Several of these species are important pathogens of humans and marine species. Evidence indicates that genetic exchange plays an important role in the emergence of new pathogenic strains within this family. Data from the sequenced genomes of strains in this family could show how the genes encoded by all these strains, known as the pangenome, are distributed. Information about the core, accessory and panproteome of this family can show how, for example, genes encoding virulence-associated proteins are distributed and help us understand how virulence emerges.


We deduced the complete set of orthologs for eleven strains from this family. The core proteome consists of 1,882 orthologous groups, which is 28% of the 6,629 orthologous groups in this family. There were 4,411 accessory orthologous groups (i.e., proteins that occurred in from 2 to 10 proteomes) and 5,584 unique proteins (encoded once on only one of the eleven genomes). Proteins that have been associated with virulence in V. cholerae were widely distributed across the eleven genomes, but the majority was found only on the genomes of the two V. cholerae strains examined.


The proteomes are reflective of the differing evolutionary trajectories followed by different strains to similar phenotypes. The composition of the proteomes supports the notion that genetic exchange among species of the Vibrionaceae is widespread and that this exchange aids these species in adapting to their environments.