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Open Access Research article

Architecture of Burkholderia cepacia complex σ70 gene family: evidence of alternative primary and clade-specific factors, and genomic instability

Aymeric Menard12, Paulina Estrada de los Santos12, Arnault Graindorge12 and Benoit Cournoyer123*

Author Affiliations

1 Université de Lyon, Lyon, France

2 Research group on «Bacterial Opportunistic Pathogens and Environment», UMR5557 Ecologie Microbienne, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, and Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Lyon, France

3 UMR CNRS 5557 Ecologie Microbienne, Mendel Bldg., 5th floor, Université Lyon 1, 69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:308  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-308

Published: 4 September 2007



The Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) groups bacterial species with beneficial properties that can improve crop yields or remediate polluted sites but can also lead to dramatic human clinical outcomes among cystic fibrosis (CF) or immuno-compromised individuals. Genome-wide regulatory processes of gene expression could explain parts of this bacterial duality. Transcriptional σ70 factors are components of these processes. They allow the reversible binding of the DNA-dependent RNA polymerase to form the holoenzyme that will lead to mRNA synthesis from a DNA promoter region. Bcc genome-wide analyses were performed to investigate the major evolutionary trends taking place in the σ70 family of these bacteria.


Twenty σ70 paralogous genes were detected in the Burkholderia cenocepacia strain J2315 (Bcen-J2315) genome, of which 14 were of the ECF (extracytoplasmic function) group. Non-ECF paralogs were related to primary (rpoD), alternative primary, stationary phase (rpoS), flagellin biosynthesis (fliA), and heat shock (rpoH) factors. The number of σ70 genetic determinants among this genome was of 2,86 per Mb. This number is lower than the one of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a species found in similar habitats including CF lungs. These two bacterial groups showed strikingly different σ70 family architectures, with only three ECF paralogs in common (fecI-like, pvdS and algU). Bcen-J2315 σ70 paralogs showed clade-specific distributions. Some paralogs appeared limited to the ET12 epidemic clone (ecfA2), particular Bcc species (sigI), the Burkholderia genus (ecfJ, ecfF, and sigJ), certain proteobacterial groups (ecfA1, ecfC, ecfD, ecfE, ecfG, ecfL, ecfM and rpoS), or were broadly distributed in the eubacteria (ecfI, ecfK, ecfH, ecfB, and rpoD-, rpoH-, fliA-like genes). Genomic instability of this gene family was driven by chromosomal inversion (ecfA2), recent duplication events (ecfA and RpoD), localized (ecfG) and large scale deletions (sigI, sigJ, ecfC, ecfH, and ecfK), and a phage integration event (ecfE).


The Bcc σ70 gene family was found to be under strong selective pressures that could lead to acquisition/deletion, and duplication events modifying its architecture. Comparative analysis of Bcc and Pseudomonas aeruginosa σ70 gene families revealed distinct evolutionary strategies, with the Bcc having selected several alternative primary factors, something not recorded among P. aeruginosa and only previously reported to occur among the actinobacteria.