Despite high pertussis vaccine coverage, reported cases of whooping cough (pertussis) have increased over the last decade in the United States and other developed countries. Although Bordetella pertussis is well known for its limited gene sequence variation, recent advances in long-read sequencing technology have begun to reveal genomic structural heterogeneity among otherwise indistinguishable isolates, even within geographically or temporally defined epidemics. We have compared rearrangements among complete genome assemblies from 257 B. pertussis isolates to examine the potential evolution of the chromosomal structure in a pathogen with minimal gene nucleotide sequence diversity. Discrete changes in gene order were identified that differentiated genomes from vaccine reference strains and clinical isolates of various genotypes, frequently along phylogenetic boundaries defined by single nucleotide polymorphisms. The observed rearrangements were primarily large inversions centered on the replication origin or terminus and flanked by IS481, a mobile genetic element with >240 copies per genome and previously suspected to mediate rearrangements and deletions by homologous recombination. These data illustrate that structural genome evolution in B. pertussis is not limited to reduction but also includes rearrangement. Therefore, although genomes of clinical isolates are structurally diverse, specific changes in gene order are conserved, perhaps due to positive selection, providing novel information for investigating disease resurgence and molecular epidemiology.IMPORTANCE Whooping cough, primarily caused by Bordetella pertussis, has resurged in the United States even though the coverage with pertussis-containing vaccines remains high. The rise in reported cases has included increased disease rates among all vaccinated age groups, provoking questions about the pathogen's evolution. The chromosome of B. pertussis includes a large number of repetitive mobile genetic elements that obstruct genome analysis. However, these mobile elements facilitate large rearrangements that alter the order and orientation of essential protein-encoding genes, which otherwise exhibit little nucleotide sequence diversity. By comparing the complete genome assemblies from 257 isolates, we show that specific rearrangements have been conserved throughout recent evolutionary history, perhaps by eliciting changes in gene expression, which may also provide useful information for molecular epidemiology. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.
Journal: Journal of bacteriology