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1Centre for Comparative Genomics, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia. 2School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia.
Anaerobic intestinal spirochaetes of the genus Brachyspira include both pathogenic and commensal species. The two best-studied members are the pathogenic species B. hyodysenteriae (the aetiological agent of swine dysentery) and B. pilosicoli (a cause of intestinal spirochaetosis in humans and other species). Analysis of near-complete genome sequences of these two species identiﬁ ed a highly conserved 26 kilobase (kb) region that was shared, against a background of otherwise very little sequence conservation between the two species. PCR ampliﬁcation was used to identify sets of contiguous genes from this region in the related Brachyspira species B. intermedia, B. innocens, B. murdochii, B. alvinipulli, and B. aalborgi, and demonstrated the presence of at least part of this region in species from throughout the genus. Comparative genomic analysis with other sequenced bacterial species revealed that none of the completely sequenced spirochaete species from different genera contained this conserved cluster of coding sequences. In contrast, Enterococcus faecalis and Escherichia coli contained high gene cluster conservation across the 26 kb region, against an expected background of little sequence conservation between these phylogenetically distinct species. The conserved region in B. hyodysenteriae contained ﬁve genes predicted to be associated with amino acid transport and metabolism, four with energy production and conversion, two with nucleotide transport and metabolism, one with ion transport and metabolism, and four with poorly characterised or uncertain function, including an ankyrin repeat unit at the 5’ end. The most likely explanation for the presence of this 26 kb region in the Brachyspira species and in two unrelated enteric bacterial species is that the region has been involved in horizontal gene transfer.
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