Skarin H, Segerman B
PLoS ONE 9 (9) e107777 [2014-09-25; online 2014-09-25]
Clostridium botulinum (group III), Clostridium novyi and Clostridium haemolyticum are well-known pathogens causing animal botulism, gas gangrene/black disease, and bacillary hemoglobinuria, respectively. A close genetic relationship exists between the species, which has resulted in the collective term C. novyi sensu lato. The pathogenic traits in these species, e.g., the botulinum neurotoxin and the novyi alpha toxin, are mainly linked to a large plasmidome consisting of plasmids and circular prophages. The plasmidome of C. novyi sensu lato has so far been poorly characterized. In this study we explored the genomic relationship of a wide range of strains of C. novyi sensu lato with a special focus on the dynamics of the plasmidome. Twenty-four genomes were sequenced from strains selected to represent as much as possible the genetic diversity in C. novyi sensu lato. Sixty-one plasmids were identified in these genomes and 28 of them were completed. The genomic comparisons revealed four separate lineages, which did not strictly correlate with the species designations. The plasmids were categorized into 13 different plasmid groups on the basis of their similarity and conservation of plasmid replication or partitioning genes. The plasmid groups, lineages and species were to a large extent entwined because plasmids and toxin genes had moved across the lineage boundaries. This dynamic process appears to be primarily driven by phages. We here present a comprehensive characterization of the complex species group C. novyi sensu lato, explaining the intermixed genetic properties. This study also provides examples how the reorganization of the botulinum toxin and the novyi alpha toxin genes within the plasmidome has affected the pathogenesis of the strains.
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