The Francisella genus includes several recognized species, additional potential species, and other representatives that inhabit a range of incredibly diverse ecological niches, but are not closely related to the named species. Francisella species have been obtained from a wide variety of clinical and environmental sources; documented species include highly virulent human and animal pathogens, fish pathogens, opportunistic human pathogens, tick endosymbionts, and free-living isolates inhabiting brackish water. While more than 120 Francisella genomes have been sequenced to date, only a few contain plasmids, and most of these appear to be cryptic, with unknown benefit to the host cell. We have identified several putative cryptic plasmids in the sequenced genomes of three Francisella novicida and F. novicida-like strains (TX07-6608, AZ06-7470, DPG_3A-IS) and two new Francisella species (F. frigiditurris CA97-1460 and F. opportunistica MA06-7296). These plasmids were compared to each other and to previously identified plasmids from other Francisella species. Some of the plasmids encoded functions potentially involved in replication, conjugal transfer and partitioning, environmental survival (transcriptional regulation, signaling, metabolism), and hypothetical proteins with no assignable functions. Genomic and phylogenetic comparisons of these new plasmids to the other known Francisella plasmids revealed some similarities that add to our understanding of the evolutionary relationships among the diverse Francisella species.
Journal: PloS one