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J Mol Evol. 2003 Oct;57(4):479-86.

MgtC as a horizontally-acquired virulence factor of intracellular bacterial pathogens: evidence from molecular phylogeny and comparative genomics.


MgtC is a virulence factor required for intramacrophage survival and growth in low Mg2+ medium in two pathogens that are not phylogenetically related, Salmonella typhimurium and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In S. typhimurium, mgtC is carried by the SPI-3 pathogenicity island and hybridization studies have suggested that the distribution of mgtC among enterobacteria is limited. In the present study, we searched for the presence of mgtC-like sequences in eubacterial genomes. Analyses of MgtC-like proteins phylogeny and mgtC-like chromosomal context support the hypothesis that mgtC has been acquired by horizontal gene transfer repeatedly throughout bacterial evolution. In addition, the phylogenetic analysis revealed the existence of a subgroup of proteins, that includes the S. typhimurium and M. tuberculosis MgtC proteins, as well as MgtC-related proteins from other pathogens that are able to survive in macrophages, B. melitensis and Y. pestis. We propose that MgtC has a similar function in all these distantly related pathogens, most likely providing the ability to grow in a low Mg2+ environment.

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