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Infect Immun. 2001 Dec;69(12):7471-80.

Pathoadaptive mutations that enhance virulence: genetic organization of the cadA regions of Shigella spp.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799, USA.


Pathoadaptive mutations improve the fitness of pathogenic species by modification of traits that interfere with factors (virulence and ancestral) required for survival in host tissues. A demonstrated pathoadaptive mutation is the loss of lysine decarboxylase (LDC) expression in Shigella species that have evolved from LDC-expressing Escherichia coli. Previous studies demonstrated that the product of LDC activity, cadaverine, blocks the action of Shigella enterotoxins and that the gene encoding LDC, cadA, was abolished by large chromosomal deletions in each Shigella species. To better understand the nature and evolution of these pathoadaptive mutations, remnants of the cad region were sequenced from the four Shigella species. These analyses reveal novel gene arrangements in this region of the pathogens' chromosomes. Insertion sequences, a phage genome, and/or loci from different positions on the ancestral E. coli chromosome displaced the cadA locus to form distinct genetic linkages that are unique to each Shigella species. Hybridization studies, using an E. coli K-12 microarray, indicated that the genes displaced to form the novel linkages still remain in the Shigella genomes. None of these novel gene arrangements were observed in representatives of all E. coli phylogenies. Collectively, these observations indicate that inactivation of the cadA antivirulence gene occurred independently in each Shigella species. The convergent evolution of these pathoadaptive mutations demonstrates that, following evolution from commensal E. coli, strong pressures in host tissues selected Shigella clones with increased fitness and virulence through the loss of an ancestral trait (LDC). These observations strongly support the role of pathoadaptive mutation as an important pathway in the evolution of pathogenic organisms.

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