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Colonic Spirochetes: What Has Genomics Taught Us?

Hampson, D.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-7729-0427 and Wang, P. (2017) Colonic Spirochetes: What Has Genomics Taught Us? In: Adler, B., (ed.) Spirochete Biology: The Post Genomic Era. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp. 273-294.

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The ‘colonic’ spirochetes assigned to the genus Brachyspira are slow-growing anaerobic bacteria. The genus includes both pathogenic and non-pathogenic species, and these variously colonise the large intestines of different species of birds and animals, including humans. Scientific understanding of the physiology and molecular biology of Brachyspira spp. remains very limited compared with that of other pathogenic spirochetes, and there are few descriptions of successful genetic manipulations undertaken to investigate gene function. An important boost to knowledge occurred in 2009 when, for the first time, the whole genome sequence of a Brachyspira strain (Brachyspira hyodysenteriae strain WA1) was obtained. The genomics analysis provided a significant increase in knowledge: for example, a previously unknown ~36 Kb plasmid was discovered and metabolic pathways were constructed. The study also revealed likely acquisition of genes involved in transport and central metabolic functions from other enteric bacterial species. Four subsequent publications have provided a similarly detailed analysis of other Brachyspira genomes, but of these only two included more than one strain of a species (20 strains of B. hyodysenteriae in one and three strains of B. pilosicoli in the other). Since then, more Brachyspira genomes have been made publicly available, with the sequences of at least one representative of each of the nine officially recognised species deposited at public genome repositories. All species have a single circular chromosome varying in size from ~2.5 to 3.3 Mb, with a C + G content of around 27%. In this chapter, we summarise the current knowledge and present a preliminary comparative genomic analysis conducted on 56 strains covering the official Brachyspira species. Besides providing detailed genetic maps of the bacteria, this analysis has revealed gene island rearrangements, putative phenotypes (including antimicrobial drug resistance) and genetic mutation mechanisms that enable brachyspires to evolve and respond to stress. The application of Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) to generate genomic data from many more Brachyspira species and strains increasing will improve our understanding of these enigmatic spirochetes.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Springer International Publishing
Copyright: © Springer International Publishing AG 2017
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