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J Bacteriol. 2006 Nov;188(21):7426-39. Epub 2006 Aug 25.

Genome rearrangements, deletions, and amplifications in the natural population of Bartonella henselae.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Evolution, Evolutionary Biology Center, Uppsala University, Norbyv√§gen 18C, S-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.


Cats are the natural host for Bartonella henselae, an opportunistic human pathogen and the agent of cat scratch disease. Here, we have analyzed the natural variation in gene content and genome structure of 38 Bartonella henselae strains isolated from cats and humans by comparative genome hybridizations to microarrays and probe hybridizations to pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) blots. The variation in gene content was modest and confined to the prophage and the genomic islands, whereas the PFGE analyses indicated extensive rearrangements across the terminus of replication with breakpoints in areas of the genomic islands. We observed no difference in gene content or structure between feline and human strains. Rather, the results suggest multiple sources of human infection from feline B. henselae strains of diverse genotypes. Additionally, the microarray hybridizations revealed DNA amplification in some strains in the so-called chromosome II-like region. The amplified segments were centered at a position corresponding to a putative phage replication initiation site and increased in size with the duration of cultivation. We hypothesize that the variable gene pool in the B. henselae population plays an important role in the establishment of long-term persistent infection in the natural host by promoting antigenic variation and escape from the host immune response.

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