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Open Access Research article

Genomic and physiological variability within Group II (non-proteolytic) Clostridium botulinum

Sandra C Stringer1*, Andrew T Carter1, Martin D Webb1, Ewelina Wachnicka1, Lisa C Crossman2, Mohammed Sebaihia34 and Michael W Peck1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Food Research (IFR), Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UA, UK

2 The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK

3 Welcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge CB10 1BA, UK

4 Present address: Departement de Biologie, Faculté des Sciences,Université Hassiba Ben Bouali, Chlef, Algeria

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:333  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-333

Published: 16 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Clostridium botulinum is a group of four physiologically and phylogenetically distinct bacteria that produce botulinum neurotoxin. While studies have characterised variability between strains of Group I (proteolytic) C. botulinum, the genetic and physiological variability and relationships between strains within Group II (non-proteolytic) C. botulinum are not well understood. In this study the genome of Group II strain C. botulinum Eklund 17B (NRP) was sequenced and used to construct a whole genome DNA microarray. This was used in a comparative genomic indexing study to compare the relatedness of 43 strains of Group II C. botulinum (14 type B, 24 type E and 5 type F). These results were compared with characteristics determined from physiological tests.

Results

Whole genome indexing showed that strains of Group II C. botulinum isolated from a wide variety of environments over more than 75 years clustered together indicating the genetic background of Group II C. botulinum is stable. Further analysis showed that strains forming type B or type F toxin are closely related with only toxin cluster genes targets being unique to either type. Strains producing type E toxin formed a separate subset. Carbohydrate fermentation tests supported the observation that type B and F strains form a separate subset to type E strains. All the type F strains and most of type B strains produced acid from amylopectin, amylose and glycogen whereas type E strains did not. However, these two subsets did not differ strongly in minimum growth temperature or maximum NaCl concentration for growth. No relationship was found between tellurite resistance and toxin type despite all the tested type B and type F strains carrying tehB, while the sequence was absent or diverged in all type E strains.

Conclusions

Although Group II C. botulinum form a tight genetic group, genomic and physiological analysis indicates there are two distinct subsets within this group. All type B strains and type F strains are in one subset and all type E strains in the other.