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Open Access Research article

Comparative genomics of unintrogressed Campylobacter coli clades 2 and 3

Caroline PA Skarp-de Haan1*, Alejandra Culebro1, Thomas Schott1, Joana Revez1, Elke KH Schweda2, Marja-Liisa Hänninen1 and Mirko Rossi1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland

2 Division of Chemistry, IFM, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:129  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-129

Published: 13 February 2014



Campylobacter jejuni and C. coli share a multitude of risk factors associated with human gastrointestinal disease, yet their phylogeny differs significantly. C. jejuni is scattered into several lineages, with no apparent linkage, whereas C. coli clusters into three distinct phylogenetic groups (clades) of which clade 1 has shown extensive genome-wide introgression with C. jejuni, yet the other two clades (2 and 3) have less than 2% of C. jejuni ancestry. We characterized a C. coli strain (76339) with four novel multilocus sequence type alleles (ST-5088) and having the capability to express gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase (GGT); an accessory feature in C. jejuni. Our aim was to further characterize unintrogressed C. coli clades 2 and 3, using comparative genomics and with additional genome sequences available, to investigate the impact of horizontal gene transfer in shaping the accessory and core gene pools in unintrogressed C. coli.


Here, we present the first fully closed C. coli clade 3 genome (76339). The phylogenomic analysis of strain 76339, revealed that it belonged to clade 3 of unintrogressed C. coli. A more extensive respiratory metabolism among unintrogressed C. coli strains was found compared to introgressed C. coli (clade 1). We also identified other genes, such as serine proteases and an active sialyltransferase in the lipooligosaccharide locus, not present in C. coli clade 1 and we further propose a unique scenario for the evolution of Campylobacter ggt.


We propose new insights into the evolution of the accessory genome of C. coli clade 3 and C. jejuni. Also, in silico analysis of the gene content revealed that C. coli clades 2 and 3 have genes associated with infection, suggesting they are a potent human pathogen, and may currently be underreported in human infections due to niche separation.

Campylobacter coli; Comparative genomics; Phylogeny; Gamma glutamyltranspeptidase; Sialyltransferase