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J Mol Evol. 2009 Feb;68(2):171-85. doi: 10.1007/s00239-009-9198-5. Epub 2009 Feb 3.

Lines of evidence for horizontal gene transfer of a phenazine producing operon into multiple bacterial species.

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  • 1Department of Biology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland.


Phenazines are secondary metabolites with broad-spectrum antibiotic activity against bacteria, fungi, and eukaryotes. In pseudomonad species, a conserved seven-gene phenazine operon (phzABCDEFG) is required for the conversion of chorismic acid to the broad-spectrum antibiotic phenazine-1-carboxylate. Previous analyses of genes involved in phenazine production from nonpseudomonad species uncovered a high degree of sequence similarity to pseudomonad homologues. The analyses undertaken in this study wished to eluciadate the evolutionary history of genes involved in the production of phenazines. Furthermore, I wanted to determine if the phenazine operon has been transferred through horizontal gene transfer. Analyses of GC content, codon usage patterns, frequency of 3:1 dinucleotides, sequence similarities, and phylogenetic reconstructions were undertaken to map the evolutionary history of phenazine genes from multiple bacterial species. Patchy phyletic distribution, high sequence similarities, and phylogenetic evidence infer that pseudomonad, Streptomyces cinnamonensis, Pantoea agglomerans, Burkholderia cepacia, Pectobacterium atrosepticum, Brevibacterium linens, and Mycobacterium abscessus species all contain a phenazine operon which has most likely been transferred among these species through horizontal gene transfer. The acquisition of an antibiotic-associated operon is significant, as it may increase the relative fitness of the recipient species.

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