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Environ Microbiol. 2012 Aug;14(8):2017-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02646.x. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Molecular evolution of key genes for type II secretion in Legionella pneumophila.

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Centro de Neurociências e Biologia Celular, Universidade de Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal.


Given the role of type II protein secretion system (T2S) in the ecology and pathogenesis of Legionella pneumophila, it is possible that this system is a target for adaptive evolution. The population genetic structure of L.pneumophila was inferred from the partial sequences of rpoB and from the complete sequence of three T2S structural components (lspD, lspE and pilD) and from two T2S effectors critical for intracellular infection of protozoa (proA and srnA) of 37 strains isolated from natural and man-made environments and disease-related from worldwide sources. A phylogenetic analysis was obtained for the concatenated alignment and for each individual locus. Seven main groups were identified containing the same L.pneumophila strains, suggesting an ancient divergence for each cluster and indicating that the operating selective pressures have equally affected the evolution of the five genes. Although linkage disequilibrium analysis indicate a clonal nature for population structure in this sample, our results indicate that recombination is a common phenomenon among T2S-related genes on this species, as 24 of the 37 L.pneumophila isolates contained at least one locus in which recombination was identified. Furthermore, neutral selection acting on the analysed T2S-related genes emerged as a clear result, namely on T2S effectors, ProA and SrnA, indicating that they are probably implicated in conserved virulence mechanisms through legionellae hosts.

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