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Genome Res. 2003 Sep;13(9):2018-29.

Application of DNA microarrays to study the evolutionary genomics of Yersinia pestis and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

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The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, WC1E 7HT, UK.


Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, diverged from Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, an enteric pathogen, an estimated 1500-20,000 years ago. Genetic characterization of these closely related organisms represents a useful model to study the rapid emergence of bacterial pathogens that threaten mankind. To this end, we undertook genome-wide DNA microarray analysis of 22 strains of Y. pestis and 10 strains of Y. pseudotuberculosis of diverse origin. Eleven Y. pestis DNA loci were deemed absent or highly divergent in all strains of Y. pseudotuberculosis. Four were regions of phage origin, whereas the other seven included genes encoding a vitamin B12 receptor and the insect toxin sepC. Sixteen differences were identified between Y. pestis strains, with biovar Antiqua and Mediaevalis strains showing most divergence from the arrayed CO92 Orientalis strain. Fifty-eight Y. pestis regions were specific to a limited number of Y. pseudotuberculosis strains, including the high pathogenicity island, three putative autotransporters, and several possible insecticidal toxins and hemolysins. The O-antigen gene cluster and one of two possible flagellar operons had high levels of divergence between Y. pseudotuberculosis strains. This study reports chromosomal differences between species, biovars, serotypes, and strains of Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis that may relate to the evolution of these species in their respective niches.

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