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Open Access Research article

Insight into the specific virulence related genes and toxin-antitoxin virulent pathogenicity islands in swine streptococcosis pathogen Streptococcus equi ssp. zooepidemicus strain ATCC35246

Zhe Ma1, Jianing Geng2, Li Yi1, Bin Xu1, Ruoyu Jia2, Yue Li1, Qingshu Meng2, Hongjie Fan1* and Songnian Hu2*

Author Affiliations

1 College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, People’s Republic of China

2 CAS Key Laboratory of Genome Sciences and Information, Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:377  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-377

Published: 7 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Streptococcus equi ssp. zooepidemicus (S. zooepidemicus) is an important pathogen causing swine streptococcosis in China. Pathogenicity islands (PAIs) of S. zooepidemicus have been transferred among bacteria through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and play important roles in the adaptation and increased virulence of S. zooepidemicus. The present study used comparative genomics to examine the different pathogenicities of S. zooepidemicus.

Results

Genome of S. zooepidemicus ATCC35246 (Sz35246) comprises 2,167,264-bp of a single circular chromosome, with a GC content of 41.65%. Comparative genome analysis of Sz35246, S. zooepidemicus MGCS10565 (Sz10565), Streptococcus equi. ssp. equi. 4047 (Se4047) and S. zooepidemicus H70 (Sz70) identified 320 Sz35246-specific genes, clustered into three toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems PAIs and one restriction modification system (RM system) PAI. These four acquired PAIs encode proteins that may contribute to the overall pathogenic capacity and fitness of this bacterium to adapt to different hosts. Analysis of the in vivo and in vitro transcriptomes of this bacterium revealed differentially expressed PAI genes and non-PAI genes, suggesting that Sz35246 possess mechanisms for infecting animals and adapting to a wide range of host environments. Analysis of the genome identified potential Sz35246 virulence genes. Genes of the Fim III operon were presumed to be involved in breaking the host-restriction of Sz35246.

Conclusion

Genome wide comparisons of Sz35246 with three other strains and transcriptome analysis revealed novel genes related to bacterial virulence and breaking the host-restriction. Four specific PAIs, which were judged to have been transferred into Sz35246 genome through HGT, were identified for the first time. Further analysis of the TA and RM systems in the PAIs will improve our understanding of the pathogenicity of this bacterium and could lead to the development of diagnostics and vaccines.