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Genome Biol Evol. 2013;5(5):1032-7. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt068.

The type F6 neurotoxin gene cluster locus of group II clostridium botulinum has evolved by successive disruption of two different ancestral precursors.

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  • 1Department of Gut Health and Food Safety, Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, United Kingdom.


Genome sequences of five different Group II (nonproteolytic) Clostridium botulinum type F6 strains were compared at a 50-kb locus containing the neurotoxin gene cluster. A clonal origin for these strains is indicated by the fact that sequences were identical except for strain Eklund 202F, with 10 single-nucleotide polymorphisms and a 15-bp deletion. The essential topB gene encoding topoisomerase III was found to have been split by the apparent insertion of 34.4 kb of foreign DNA (in a similar manner to that in Group II C. botulinum type E where the rarA gene has been disrupted by a neurotoxin gene cluster). The foreign DNA, which includes the intact 13.6-kb type F6 neurotoxin gene cluster, bears not only a newly introduced topB gene but also two nonfunctional botulinum neurotoxin gene remnants, a type B and a type E. This observation combined with the discovery of bacteriophage integrase genes and IS4 elements suggest that several rounds of recombination/horizontal gene transfer have occurred at this locus. The simplest explanation for the current genotype is that the ancestral bacterium, a Group II C. botulinum type B strain, received DNA firstly from a strain containing a type E neurotoxin gene cluster, then from a strain containing a type F6 neurotoxin gene cluster. Each event disrupted the previously functional neurotoxin gene. This degree of successive recombination at one hot spot is without precedent in C. botulinum, and it is also the first description of a Group II C. botulinum genome containing more than one neurotoxin gene sequence.


botulinum toxin gene; genome comparison; horizontal gene transfer; synteny

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