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Mycoplasma mycoides, from "mycoides Small Colony" to "capri". A microevolutionary perspective

Francois Thiaucourt1*, Lucia Manso-Silvan1, Woubit Salah17, Valérie Barbe2, Benoit Vacherie2, Daniel Jacob3, Marc Breton45, Virginie Dupuy1, Anne Marie Lomenech6, Alain Blanchard45 and Pascal Sirand-Pugnet45

Author affiliations

1 CIRAD, UMR CMAEE, F-34398 Montpellier, France

2 CEA/IG/Genoscope, Evry, France

3 Univ. Bordeaux, CBiB, Bordeaux, 33076, France and Laboratoire Bordelais de Recherche en Informatique, UMR CNRS 5800, Talence, 33405, France

4 INRA, UMR 1332, Villenave d'Ornon, 33883, France

5 Univ. Bordeaux, UMR 1332, Villenave d'Ornon, 33883, France

6 Univ. Bordeaux, pôle protéomique, 33076 Bordeaux, France

7 College of Veterinary Medicine, Tuskegee University, AL 36088, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:114  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-114

Published: 16 February 2011



The Mycoplasma mycoides cluster consists of five species or subspecies that are ruminant pathogens. One subspecies, Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies mycoides Small Colony (MmmSC), is the causative agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. Its very close relative, Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. capri (Mmc), is a more ubiquitous pathogen in small ruminants causing mastitis, arthritis, keratitis, pneumonia and septicaemia and is also found as saprophyte in the ear canal. To understand the genetics underlying these phenotypic differences, we compared the MmmSC PG1 type strain genome, which was already available, with the genome of an Mmc field strain (95010) that was sequenced in this study. We also compared the 95010 genome with the recently published genome of another Mmc strain (GM12) to evaluate Mmc strain diversity.


The MmmSC PG1 genome is 1,212 kbp and that of Mmc 95010 is ca. 58 kbp shorter. Most of the sequences present in PG1 but not 95010 are highly repeated Insertion Sequences (three types of IS) and large duplicated DNA fragments. The 95010 genome contains five types of IS, present in fewer copies than in PG1, and two copies of an integrative conjugative element. These mobile genetic elements have played a key role in genome plasticity, leading to inversions of large DNA fragments. Comparison of the two genomes suggested a marked decay of the PG1 genome that seems to be correlated with a greater number of IS. The repertoire of gene families encoding surface proteins is smaller in PG1. Several genes involved in polysaccharide metabolism and protein degradation are also absent from, or degraded in, PG1.


The genome of MmmSC PG1 is larger than that of Mmc 95010, its very close relative, but has less coding capacity. This is the result of large genetic rearrangements due to mobile elements that have also led to marked gene decay. This is consistent with a non-adaptative genomic complexity theory, allowing duplications or pseudogenes to be maintained in the absence of adaptive selection that would lead to purifying selection and genome streamlining over longer evolutionary times. These findings also suggest that MmmSC only recently adapted to its bovine host.