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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jul 17;104(29):12146-50. Epub 2007 Jul 5.

Deep-sea vent epsilon-proteobacterial genomes provide insights into emergence of pathogens.

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  • 1Subground Animalcule Retrieval Program and Extremophiles Research Program, Extremobiosphere Research Center, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan.


Deep-sea vents are the light-independent, highly productive ecosystems driven primarily by chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms, in particular by epsilon-Proteobacteria phylogenetically related to important pathogens. We analyzed genomes of two deep-sea vent epsilon-Proteobacteria strains, Sulfurovum sp. NBC37-1 and Nitratiruptor sp. SB155-2, which provide insights not only into their unusual niche on the seafloor, but also into the origins of virulence in their pathogenic relatives, Helicobacter and Campylobacter species. The deep-sea vent epsilon-proteobacterial genomes encode for multiple systems for respiration, sensing and responding to environment, and detoxifying heavy metals, reflecting their adaptation to the deep-sea vent environment. Although they are nonpathogenic, both deep-sea vent epsilon-Proteobacteria share many virulence genes with pathogenic epsilon-Proteobacteria, including genes for virulence factor MviN, hemolysin, invasion antigen CiaB, and the N-linked glycosylation gene cluster. In addition, some virulence determinants (such as the H(2)-uptake hydrogenase) and genomic plasticity of the pathogenic descendants appear to have roots in deep-sea vent epsilon-Proteobacteria. These provide ecological advantages for hydrothermal vent epsilon-Proteobacteria who thrive in their deep-sea habitat and are essential for both the efficient colonization and persistent infections of their pathogenic relatives. Our comparative genomic analysis suggests that there are previously unrecognized evolutionary links between important human/animal pathogens and their nonpathogenic, symbiotic, chemolithoautotrophic deep-sea relatives.

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