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Genome Biol Evol. 2013;5(6):1099-114. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt075.

CRISPR regulation of intraspecies diversification by limiting IS transposition and intercellular recombination.

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Section of Bacterial Pathogenesis, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Bunkyo-ku, Japan.


Mobile genetic elements (MGEs) and genetic rearrangement are considered as major driving forces of bacterial diversification. Previous comparative genome analysis of Porphyromonas gingivalis, a pathogen related to periodontitis, implied such an important relationship. As a counterpart system to MGEs, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) in bacteria may be useful for genetic typing. We found that CRISPR typing could be a reasonable alternative to conventional methods for characterizing phylogenetic relationships among 60 highly diverse P. gingivalis isolates. Examination of genetic recombination along with multilocus sequence typing suggests the importance of such events between different isolates. MGEs appear to be strategically located at the breakpoint gaps of complicated genome rearrangements. Of these MGEs, insertion sequences (ISs) were found most frequently. CRISPR analysis identified 2,150 spacers that were clustered into 1,187 unique ones. Most of these spacers exhibited no significant nucleotide similarity to known sequences (97.6%: 1,158/1,187). Surprisingly, CRISPR spacers exhibiting high nucleotide similarity to regions of P. gingivalis genomes including ISs were predominant. The proportion of such spacers to all the unique spacers (1.6%: 19/1,187) was the highest among previous studies, suggesting novel functions for these CRISPRs. These results indicate that P. gingivalis is a bacterium with high intraspecies diversity caused by frequent insertion sequence (IS) transposition, whereas both the introduction of foreign DNA, primarily from other P. gingivalis cells, and IS transposition are limited by CRISPR interference. It is suggested that P. gingivalis CRISPRs could be an important source for understanding the role of CRISPRs in the development of bacterial diversity.


Porphyromonas gingivalis; clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR); diversification; genome rearrangement; intercellular recombination; mobile genetic element (MGE)

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