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Mol Biol Evol. 2012 Apr;29(4):1175-86. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr286. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Candidate targets of balancing selection in the genome of Staphylococcus aureus.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, USA.

Abstract

Signatures of balancing selection can highlight polymorphisms and functions that are important to the long-term fitness of a species. We performed a first genome-wide scan for balancing selection in a bacterial species, Staphylococcus aureus, which is a common cause of serious antimicrobial-resistant infections of humans. Using a sliding window approach, the genomes of 16 strains of S. aureus, including 5 new genome sequences presented here, and 1 outgroup strain of S. epidermidis were scanned for signatures of balancing selection. A total of 195 short windows were investigated based on their extreme values of both Tajima's D (>2.03) and π/K ratios (>0.12) relative to the rest of the genome. To test the unusualness of these windows, an Approximate Bayesian Computation framework was used to select a null demographic model that better accounted for the observed data than did the standard neutral model. A total of 186 windows were demonstrated to be unusual under the null model and, thus, represented candidate loci under balancing selection. These 186 candidate windows were located within 99 candidate genes that were spread across 62 different loci. Nearly all the signal (97.2%) was located within coding sequences; balancing selection on gene regulation apparently occurs through the targeting of global regulators such as agr and gra/aps. The agr locus had some of the strongest signatures of balancing selection, which provides new insight into the causes of diversity at this locus. The list of candidate genes included multiple virulence-associated genes and was significantly enriched for functions in amino acid and inorganic ion transport and metabolism and in defense mechanisms against innate immunity and antimicrobials, highlighting these particular functions as important to the fitness of this pathogen.

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