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Open Access Research article

Comparative genomic analysis of Campylobacter jejuni associated with Guillain-Barré and Miller Fisher syndromes: neuropathogenic and enteritis-associated isolates can share high levels of genomic similarity

Eduardo N Taboada1, Alex van Belkum2, Nobuhiro Yuki3, Rey R Acedillo1, Peggy CR Godschalk2, Michiaki Koga3, Hubert P Endtz2, Michel Gilbert1 and John HE Nash1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Biological Sciences, National Research Council, 100 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0R6, Canada

2 Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, 3015 GD Rotterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Neurology and Research Institute of Neuroimmunological Diseases, Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine, Shimotsuga, Tochigi 321-0293, Japan

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:359  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-359

Published: 5 October 2007

Abstract

Background

Campylobacter jejuni infection represents the most frequent antecedent infection triggering the onset of the neuropathic disorders Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS). Although sialylated ganglioside-mimicking lipo-oligosaccharide (LOS) structures are the strongest neuropathogenic determinants in C. jejuni, they do not appear to be the only requirement for a neuropathic outcome since strains capable of their production have been isolated from patients with uncomplicated cases of enteritis. Consequently, other pathogen and/or host-related factors contribute to the onset of neurological complications. We have used comparative genomic hybridization to perform a detailed genomic comparison of strains isolated from GBS/MFS and enteritis-only patients. Our dataset, in which the gene conservation profile for 1712 genes was assayed in 102 strains, including 56 neuropathogenic isolates, represents the largest systematic search for C. jejuni factors associated with GBS/MFS to date and has allowed us to analyze the genetic background of neuropathogenic C. jejuni strains with an unprecedented level of resolution.

Results

The majority of GBS/MFS strains can be assigned to one of six major lineages, suggesting that several genetic backgrounds can result in a neuropathogenic phenotype. A statistical analysis of gene conservation rates revealed that although genes involved in the sialylation of LOS structures were significantly associated with neuropathogenic strains, still many enteritis-control strains both bear these genes and share remarkable levels of genomic similarity with their neuropathogenic counterparts. Two capsule biosynthesis genes (Cj1421c and Cj1428c) showed higher conservation rates among neuropathogenic strains compared to enteritis-control strains. Any potential involvement of these genes in neuropathogenesis must be assessed. A single gene (HS:3 Cj1135) had a higher conservation rate among enteritis-control strains. This gene encodes a glucosyltransferase that is found in some of the LOS classes that do not express ganglioside mimics.

Conclusion

Our findings corroborate that neuropathogenic factors may be transferred between unrelated strains of different genetic background. Our results would also suggest that the failure of some strains isolated from uncomplicated cases of enteritis to elicit a neuropathic clinical outcome may be due to subtle genetic differences that silence their neuropathogenic potential and/or due to host-related factors.

The microarray data has been deposited in NCBI's Gene Expression Omnibus under accession number GSE3579.