Open Access Research article

Analysis of the Pantoea ananatis pan-genome reveals factors underlying its ability to colonize and interact with plant, insect and vertebrate hosts

Pieter De Maayer12*, Wai Yin Chan2, Enrico Rubagotti3, Stephanus N Venter2, Ian K Toth24, Paul R J Birch245 and Teresa A Coutinho2

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

2 Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology and Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

3 Genomics Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

4 James Hutton Institute, Cell and Molecular Sciences, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, UK

5 Division of Plant Science, University of Dundee (at JHI), Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, UK

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:404  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-404

Published: 27 May 2014



Pantoea ananatis is found in a wide range of natural environments, including water, soil, as part of the epi- and endophytic flora of various plant hosts, and in the insect gut. Some strains have proven effective as biological control agents and plant-growth promoters, while other strains have been implicated in diseases of a broad range of plant hosts and humans. By analysing the pan-genome of eight sequenced P. ananatis strains isolated from different sources we identified factors potentially underlying its ability to colonize and interact with hosts in both the plant and animal Kingdoms.


The pan-genome of the eight compared P. ananatis strains consisted of a core genome comprised of 3,876 protein coding sequences (CDSs) and a sizeable accessory genome consisting of 1,690 CDSs. We estimate that ~106 unique CDSs would be added to the pan-genome with each additional P. ananatis genome sequenced in the future. The accessory fraction is derived mainly from integrated prophages and codes mostly for proteins of unknown function. Comparison of the translated CDSs on the P. ananatis pan-genome with the proteins encoded on all sequenced bacterial genomes currently available revealed that P. ananatis carries a number of CDSs with orthologs restricted to bacteria associated with distinct hosts, namely plant-, animal- and insect-associated bacteria. These CDSs encode proteins with putative roles in transport and metabolism of carbohydrate and amino acid substrates, adherence to host tissues, protection against plant and animal defense mechanisms and the biosynthesis of potential pathogenicity determinants including insecticidal peptides, phytotoxins and type VI secretion system effectors.


P. ananatis has an ‘open’ pan-genome typical of bacterial species that colonize several different environments. The pan-genome incorporates a large number of genes encoding proteins that may enable P. ananatis to colonize, persist in and potentially cause disease symptoms in a wide range of plant and animal hosts.