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PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22420. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022420. Epub 2011 Jul 19.

Identification of the pangenome and its components in 14 distinct Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans strains by comparative genomic analysis.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.



Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is genetically heterogeneous and comprises distinct clonal lineages that may have different virulence potentials. However, limited information of the strain-to-strain genomic variations is available.


The genome sequences of 11 A. actinomycetemcomitans strains (serotypes a-f) were generated de novo, annotated and combined with three previously sequenced genomes (serotypes a-c) for comparative genomic analysis. Two major groups were identified; serotypes a, d, e, and f, and serotypes b and c. A serotype e strain was found to be distinct from both groups. The size of the pangenome was 3,301 genes, which included 2,034 core genes and 1,267 flexible genes. The number of core genes is estimated to stabilize at 2,060, while the size of the pangenome is estimated to increase by 16 genes with every additional strain sequenced in the future. Within each strain 16.7-29.4% of the genome belonged to the flexible gene pool. Between any two strains 0.4-19.5% of the genomes were different. The genomic differences were occasionally greater for strains of the same serotypes than strains of different serotypes. Furthermore, 171 genomic islands were identified. Cumulatively, 777 strain-specific genes were found on these islands and represented 61% of the flexible gene pool.


Substantial genomic differences were detected among A. actinomycetemcomitans strains. Genomic islands account for more than half of the flexible genes. The phenotype and virulence of A. actinomycetemcomitans may not be defined by any single strain. Moreover, the genomic variation within each clonal lineage of A. actinomycetemcomitans (as defined by serotype grouping) may be greater than between clonal lineages. The large genomic data set in this study will be useful to further examine the molecular basis of variable virulence among A. actinomycetemcomitans strains.

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