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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 May;70(5):3013-23.

Genomic diversity of Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora and its correlation with virulence.

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Department of Plant Pathology, Russell Laboratories, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


We used genetic and biochemical methods to examine the genomic diversity of the enterobacterial plant pathogen Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora. The results obtained with each method showed that E. carotovora subsp. carotovora strains isolated from one ecological niche, potato plants, are surprisingly diverse compared to related pathogens. A comparison of 23 partial mdh sequences revealed a maximum pairwise difference of 10.49% and an average pairwise difference of 2.13%, values which are much greater than the maximum variation (1.81%) and average variation (0.75%) previously reported for Escherichia coli. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis of I-CeuI-digested genomic DNA revealed seven rrn operons in all E. carotovora subsp. carotovora strains examined except strain WPP17, which had only six copies. We identified 26 I-CeuI restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns and observed significant polymorphism in fragment sizes ranging from 100 to 450 kb for all strains. We detected large plasmids in two strains, including the model strain E. carotovora subsp. carotovora 71. The two least virulent strains had an unusual chromosomal structure, suggesting that a particular pulsotype is correlated with virulence. To compare chromosomal organization of multiple enterobacterial genomes, several genes were mapped onto I-CeuI fragments. We identified portions of the genome that appear to be conserved across enterobacteria and portions that have undergone genome rearrangements. We found that the least virulent strain, WPP17, failed to oxidize cellobiose and was missing several hrp and hrc genes. The unexpected variability among isolates obtained from clonal hosts in one region and in one season suggests that factors other than the host plant, potato, drive the evolution of this common environmental bacterium and key plant pathogen.

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