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Open Access Research article

Use of suppression subtractive hybridisation to extend our knowledge of genome diversity in Campylobacter jejuni

Philip J Hepworth1, Howard Leatherbarrow2, C Anthony Hart1 and Craig Winstanley1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Medical Microbiology and Genitourinary Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GA, UK

2 DEFRA Epidemiology Fellowship Unit, Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Leahurst, Wirral, UK

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:110  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-110

Published: 30 April 2007



Previous studies have sought to identify a link between the distribution of variable genes amongst isolates of Campylobacter jejuni and particular host preferences. The genomic sequence data available currently was obtained using only isolates from human or chicken hosts. In order to identify variable genes present in isolates from alternative host species, five subtractions between C. jejuni isolates from different sources (rabbit, cattle, wild bird) were carried out, designed to assess genomic variability within and between common multilocus sequence type (MLST) clonal complexes (ST-21, ST-42, ST-45 and ST-61).


The vast majority (97%) of the 195 subtracted sequences identified had a best BLASTX match with a Campylobacter protein. However, there was considerable variation within and between the four clonal complexes included in the subtractions. The distributions of eight variable sequences, including four with putative roles in the use of alternative terminal electron acceptors, amongst a panel of C. jejuni isolates representing diverse sources and STs, were determined.


There was a clear correlation between clonal complex and the distribution of the metabolic genes. In contrast, there was no evidence to support the hypothesis that the distribution of such genes may be related to host preference. The other variable genes studied were also generally distributed according to MLST type. Thus, we found little evidence for widespread horizontal gene transfer between clonal complexes involving these genes.