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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 30;6(3):e17987. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017987.

Identification of genes and genomic islands correlated with high pathogenicity in Streptococcus suis using whole genome tiling microarrays.

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State Key Laboratory for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, Changping, Beijing, China.


Streptococcus suis is an important zoonotic pathogen that can cause meningitis and sepsis in both pigs and humans. Infections in humans have been sporadic worldwide but two severe outbreaks occurred in China in recent years, while infections in pigs are a major problem in the swine industry. Some S. suis strains are more pathogenic than others with 2 sequence types (ST), ST1 and ST7, being well recognized as highly pathogenic. We analyzed 31 isolates from 23 serotypes and 25 STs by NimbleGen tiling microarray using the genome of a high pathogenicity (HP) ST1 strain, GZ1, as reference and a new algorithm to detect gene content difference. The number of genes absent in a strain ranged from 49 to 225 with a total of 632 genes absent in at least one strain, while 1346 genes were found to be invariably present in all strains as the core genome of S. suis, accounting for 68% of the GZ1 genome. The majority of genes are located in chromosomal blocks with two or more contiguous genes. Sixty two blocks are absent in two or more strains and defined as regions of difference (RDs), among which 26 are putative genomic islands (GIs). Clustering and statistical analyses revealed that 8 RDs including 6 putative GIs and 21 genes within these RDs are significantly associated with HP. Three RDs encode known virulence related factors including the extracellular factor, the capsular polysaccharide and a SrtF pilus. The strains were divided into 5 groups based on population genetic analysis of multilocus sequence typing data and the distribution of the RDs among the groups revealed gain and loss of RDs in different groups. Our study elucidated the gene content diversity of S. suis and identified genes that potentially promote HP.

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