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Open Access Research article

Complete genome sequence of Brachyspira intermedia reveals unique genomic features in Brachyspira species and phage-mediated horizontal gene transfer

Therese Håfström1, Désirée S Jansson23 and Bo Segerman1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bacteriology, National Veterinary Institute (SVA), SE 751 89 Uppsala, Sweden

2 Department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), SE 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden

3 Department of Animal Health and Antimicrobial Strategies, National Veterinary Institute (SVA), SE 751 89 Uppsala, Sweden

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:395  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-395

Published: 4 August 2011



Brachyspira spp. colonize the intestines of some mammalian and avian species and show different degrees of enteropathogenicity. Brachyspira intermedia can cause production losses in chickens and strain PWS/AT now becomes the fourth genome to be completed in the genus Brachyspira.


15 classes of unique and shared genes were analyzed in B. intermedia, B. murdochii, B. hyodysenteriae and B. pilosicoli. The largest number of unique genes was found in B. intermedia and B. murdochii. This indicates the presence of larger pan-genomes. In general, hypothetical protein annotations are overrepresented among the unique genes. A 3.2 kb plasmid was found in B. intermedia strain PWS/AT. The plasmid was also present in the B. murdochii strain but not in nine other Brachyspira isolates. Within the Brachyspira genomes, genes had been translocated and also frequently switched between leading and lagging strands, a process that can be followed by different AT-skews in the third positions of synonymous codons. We also found evidence that bacteriophages were being remodeled and genes incorporated into them.


The accessory gene pool shapes species-specific traits. It is also influenced by reductive genome evolution and horizontal gene transfer. Gene-transfer events can cross both species and genus boundaries and bacteriophages appear to play an important role in this process. A mechanism for horizontal gene transfer appears to be gene translocations leading to remodeling of bacteriophages in combination with broad tropism.

Brachyspira intermedia; genome comparison; bacteriophages; horizontal gene transfer; AT/GC-skew