July 7, 2019  |  

Exception to the rule: Genomic characterization of naturally occurring unusual Vibrio cholerae strains with a single chromosome.

The genetic make-up of most bacteria is encoded in a single chromosome while about 10% have more than one chromosome. Among these, Vibrio cholerae, with two chromosomes, has served as a model system to study various aspects of chromosome maintenance, mainly replication, and faithful partitioning of multipartite genomes. Here, we describe the genomic characterization of strains that are an exception to the two chromosome rules: naturally occurring single-chromosome V. cholerae. Whole genome sequence analyses of NSCV1 and NSCV2 (natural single-chromosome vibrio) revealed that the Chr1 and Chr2 fusion junctions contain prophages, IS elements, and direct repeats, in addition to large-scale chromosomal rearrangements such as inversions, insertions, and long tandem repeats elsewhere in the chromosome compared to prototypical two chromosome V. cholerae genomes. Many of the known cholera virulence factors are absent. The two origins of replication and associated genes are generally intact with synonymous mutations in some genes, as are recA and mismatch repair (MMR) genes dam, mutH, and mutL; MutS function is probably impaired in NSCV2. These strains are ideal tools for studying mechanistic aspects of maintenance of chromosomes with multiple origins and other rearrangements and the biological, functional, and evolutionary significance of multipartite genome architecture in general.

July 7, 2019  |  

Non-toxigenic environmental Vibrio cholerae O1 strain from Haiti provides evidence of pre-pandemic cholera in Hispaniola.

Vibrio cholerae is ubiquitous in aquatic environments, with environmental toxigenic V. cholerae O1 strains serving as a source for recurrent cholera epidemics and pandemic disease. However, a number of questions remain about long-term survival and evolution of V. cholerae strains within these aquatic environmental reservoirs. Through monitoring of the Haitian aquatic environment following the 2010 cholera epidemic, we isolated two novel non-toxigenic (ctxA/B-negative) Vibrio cholerae O1. These two isolates underwent whole-genome sequencing and were investigated through comparative genomics and Bayesian coalescent analysis. These isolates cluster in the evolutionary tree with strains responsible for clinical cholera, possessing genomic components of 6(th) and 7(th) pandemic lineages, and diverge from “modern” cholera strains around 1548 C.E. [95% HPD: 1532-1555]. Vibrio Pathogenicity Island (VPI)-1 was present; however, SXT/R391-family ICE and VPI-2 were absent. Rugose phenotype conversion and vibriophage resistance evidenced adaption for persistence in aquatic environments. The identification of V. cholerae O1 strains in the Haitian environment, which predate the first reported cholera pandemic in 1817, broadens our understanding of the history of pandemics. It also raises the possibility that these and similar environmental strains could acquire virulence genes from the 2010 Haitian epidemic clone, including the cholera toxin producing CTX?.

July 7, 2019  |  

Origins of the current seventh cholera pandemic.

Vibrio cholerae has caused seven cholera pandemics since 1817, imposing terror on much of the world, but bacterial strains are currently only available for the sixth and seventh pandemics. The El Tor biotype seventh pandemic began in 1961 in Indonesia, but did not originate directly from the classical biotype sixth-pandemic strain. Previous studies focused mainly on the spread of the seventh pandemic after 1970. Here, we analyze in unprecedented detail the origin, evolution, and transition to pandemicity of the seventh-pandemic strain. We used high-resolution comparative genomic analysis of strains collected from 1930 to 1964, covering the evolution from the first available El Tor biotype strain to the start of the seventh pandemic. We define six stages leading to the pandemic strain and reveal all key events. The seventh pandemic originated from a nonpathogenic strain in the Middle East, first observed in 1897. It subsequently underwent explosive diversification, including the spawning of the pandemic lineage. This rapid diversification suggests that, when first observed, the strain had only recently arrived in the Middle East, possibly from the Asian homeland of cholera. The lineage migrated to Makassar, Indonesia, where it gained the important virulence-associated elements Vibrio seventh pandemic island I (VSP-I), VSP-II, and El Tor type cholera toxin prophage by 1954, and it then became pandemic in 1961 after only 12 additional mutations. Our data indicate that specific niches in the Middle East and Makassar were important in generating the pandemic strain by providing gene sources and the driving forces for genetic events.

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