Complete genome sequence of Treponema paraluiscuniculi, strain Cuniculi A: the loss of infectivity to humans is associated with genome decay.
ABSTRACT: Treponema paraluiscuniculi is the causative agent of rabbit venereal spirochetosis. It is not infectious to humans, although its genome structure is very closely related to other pathogenic Treponema species including Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum, the etiological agent of syphilis. In this study, the genome sequence of Treponema paraluiscuniculi, strain Cuniculi A, was determined by a combination of several high-throughput sequencing strategies. Whereas the overall size (1,133,390 bp), arrangement, and gene content of the Cuniculi A genome closely resembled those of the T. pallidum genome, the T. paraluiscuniculi genome contained a markedly higher number of pseudogenes and gene fragments (51). In addition to pseudogenes, 33 divergent genes were also found in the T. paraluiscuniculi genome. A set of 32 (out of 84) affected genes encoded proteins of known or predicted function in the Nichols genome. These proteins included virulence factors, gene regulators and components of DNA repair and recombination. The majority (52 or 61.9%) of the Cuniculi A pseudogenes and divergent genes were of unknown function. Our results indicate that T. paraluiscuniculi has evolved from a T. pallidum-like ancestor and adapted to a specialized host-associated niche (rabbits) during loss of infectivity to humans. The genes that are inactivated or altered in T. paraluiscuniculi are candidates for virulence factors important in the infectivity and pathogenesis of T. pallidum subspecies.
Project description:The genome of Treponema paraluiscuniculi strain Cuniculi A was compared to the genome of the syphilis spirochete Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum strain Nichols using DNA microarray hybridization, whole-genome fingerprinting, and DNA sequencing. A DNA microarray of T. pallidum subsp. pallidum Nichols containing all 1,039 predicted open reading frame PCR products was used to identify deletions and major sequence changes in the Cuniculi A genome. Using these approaches, deletions, insertions, and prominent sequence changes were found in 38 gene homologs and six intergenic regions of the Cuniculi A genome when it was compared to the genome of T. pallidum subsp. pallidum Nichols. Most of the observed differences were localized in tpr loci and the vicinity of these loci. In addition, 14 other genes were found to contain frameshift mutations resulting in major changes in protein sequences. Analysis of restriction target sites representing 0.34% of the total genome length and DNA sequencing of three PCR products (0.46% of the total genome length) amplified from Cuniculi A chromosomal regions and comparison to the Nichols genome revealed a sequence similarity of 98.6 to 99.3%. These results are consistent with a close genetic relationship among the T. pallidum strains and subspecies and a strong, but relatively divergent connection between the human and rabbit pathogens.
Project description:Pathogenic uncultivable treponemes, similar to syphilis-causing Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum, include T. pallidum ssp. pertenue, T. pallidum ssp. endemicum and Treponema carateum, which cause yaws, bejel and pinta, respectively. Genetic analyses of these pathogens revealed striking similarity among these bacteria and also a high degree of similarity to the rabbit pathogen, Treponema paraluiscuniculi, a treponeme not infectious to humans. Genome comparisons between pallidum and non-pallidum treponemes revealed genes with potential involvement in human infectivity, whereas comparisons between pallidum and pertenue treponemes identified genes possibly involved in the high invasivity of syphilis treponemes. Genetic variability within syphilis strains is considered as the basis of syphilis molecular epidemiology with potential to detect more virulent strains, whereas genetic variability within a single strain is related to its ability to elude the immune system of the host. Genome analyses also shed light on treponemal evolution and on chromosomal targets for molecular diagnostics of treponemal infections.
Project description:Although the three Treponema pallidum subspecies (T. pallidum subsp. pallidum, T. pallidum subsp. pertenue, and T. pallidum subsp. endemicum), Treponema paraluiscuniculi, and the unclassified Fribourg-Blanc treponeme cause clinically distinct diseases, these pathogens are genetically and antigenically highly related and are able to cause persistent infection. Recent evidence suggests that the putative surface-exposed variable antigen TprK plays an important role in both treponemal immune evasion and persistence. tprK heterogeneity is generated by nonreciprocal gene conversion between the tprK expression site and donor sites. Although each of the above-mentioned species and subspecies has a functional tprK antigenic variation system, it is still unclear why the level of expression and the rate at which tprK diversifies during infection can differ significantly among isolates. To identify genomic differences that might affect the generation and expression of TprK variants among these pathogens, we performed comparative sequence analysis of the donor sites, as well as the tprK expression sites, among eight T. pallidum subsp. pallidum isolates (Nichols Gen, Nichols Sea, Chicago, Sea81-4, Dal-1, Street14, UW104, and UW126), three T. pallidum subsp. pertenue isolates (Gauthier, CDC2, and Samoa D), one T. pallidum subsp. endemicum isolate (Iraq B), the unclassified Fribourg-Blanc isolate, and the Cuniculi A strain of T. paraluiscuniculi. Synteny and sequence conservation, as well as deletions and insertions, were found in the regions harboring the donor sites. These data suggest that the tprK recombination system is harbored within dynamic genomic regions and that genomic differences might be an important key to explain discrepancies in generation and expression of tprK variants among these Treponema isolates.
Project description:Treponema paraluiscuniculi, the etiologic agent of rabbit venereal syphilis, is morphologically indistinguishable from Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum (T. pallidum), the human syphilis treponeme, and induces similar immune responses and histopathologic changes in the infected host. Because of their high degree of relatedness, comparative studies are likely to identify genetic determinants that contribute to pathogenesis or virulence in human syphilis. The tpr (Treponema pallidum repeat) genes are believed to code for potential virulence factors. In this study, we identified 10 tpr homologs in Treponema paraluiscuniculi Cuniculi A strain and determined their sequence architecture. Half of this group of paralogous genes were predicted to be nonfunctional due to the presence of frameshifts and premature stop codons. Furthermore, the immune response against the T. paraluiscuniculi Tpr homologs in long-term-infected rabbits was studied by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and lymphocyte proliferation assay, showing that TprK is the only target of the antibody and T-cell responses during experimental infection and emphasizing the importance of this putative virulence factor in venereal treponematosis.
Project description:The 15-kDa lipoprotein of Treponema pallidum is a major immunogen during natural syphilis infection in humans and experimental infection in other hosts. The humoral and cellular immune responses to this molecule appear late in infection as resistance to reinfection is developing. One therefore might hypothesize that this antigen is important for protective immunity. This possibility is explored by using both genetic and antigenic approaches. Limited or no cross-protection has been demonstrated between the T. pallidum subspecies and strains or between Treponema species. We therefore hypothesized that if the 15-kDa antigen was of major importance in protective immunity, it might be a likely site of antigenic diversity. To explore this possibility, the sequences of the open reading frames of the 15-kDa gene have been determined for Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum (Nichols and Bal-3 strains), T. pallidum subsp. pertenue (Gauthier strain), T. pallidum subsp. endemicum (Bosnia strain), Treponema paraluiscuniculi (Cuniculi A, H, and K strains), and a little-characterized simian isolate of Treponema sp. (Fribourg-Blanc strain). No significant differences in DNA sequences of the genes for the coding region of the 15-kDa antigen were found among the different species and subspecies studied. In addition, all organisms showed expression of the 15-kDa antigen as determined by monoclonal antibody staining. The role of the 15-kDa antigen in protection against homologous infection with T. pallidum subsp. pallidum Nichols was examined in rabbits immunized with a purified recombinant 15-kDa fusion protein. No alteration in chancre development was observed in immunized, compared to unimmunized, rabbits, and the antisera induced by the immunization failed to enhance phagocytosis of T. pallidum subsp. pallidum by macrophages in vitro. These results do not support a major role for this antigen in protection against syphilis infection.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Unclassified simian strain Treponema Fribourg-Blanc was isolated in 1966 from baboons (Papio cynocephalus) in West Africa. This strain was morphologically indistinguishable from T. pallidum ssp. pallidum or ssp. pertenue strains, and it was shown to cause human infections. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:To precisely define genetic differences between Treponema Fribourg-Blanc (unclassified simian isolate, FB) and T. pallidum ssp. pertenue strains (TPE), a high quality sequence of the whole Fribourg-Blanc genome was determined with 454-pyrosequencing and Illumina sequencing platforms. Combined average coverage of both methods was greater than 500×. Restriction target sites (n?=?1,773), identified in silico, of selected restriction enzymes within the Fribourg-Blanc genome were verified experimentally and no discrepancies were found. When compared to the other three sequenced TPE genomes (Samoa D, CDC-2, Gauthier), no major genome rearrangements were found. The Fribourg-Blanc genome clustered with other TPE strains (especially with the TPE CDC-2 strain), while T. pallidum ssp. pallidum strains clustered separately as well as the genome of T. paraluiscuniculi strain Cuniculi A. Within coding regions, 6 deletions, 5 insertions and 117 substitutions differentiated Fribourg-Blanc from other TPE genomes. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:The Fribourg-Blanc genome showed similar genetic characteristics as other TPE strains. Therefore, we propose to rename the unclassified simian isolate to Treponema pallidum ssp. pertenue strain Fribourg-Blanc. Since the Fribourg-Blanc strain was shown to cause experimental infection in human hosts, non-human primates could serve as possible reservoirs of TPE strains. This could considerably complicate recent efforts to eradicate yaws. Genetic differences specific for Fribourg-Blanc could then contribute for identification of cases of animal-derived yaws infections.
Project description:Pathogenic uncultivable treponemes comprise human and animal pathogens including agents of syphilis, yaws, bejel, pinta, and venereal spirochetosis in rabbits and hares. A set of 10 treponemal genome sequences including those of 4 Treponema pallidum ssp. pallidum (TPA) strains (Nichols, DAL-1, Mexico A, SS14), 4 T. p. ssp. pertenue (TPE) strains (CDC-2, Gauthier, Samoa D, Fribourg-Blanc), 1 T. p. ssp. endemicum (TEN) strain (Bosnia A) and one strain (Cuniculi A) of Treponema paraluisleporidarum ecovar Cuniculus (TPLC) were examined with respect to the presence of nucleotide intrastrain heterogeneous sites.The number of identified intrastrain heterogeneous sites in individual genomes ranged between 0 and 7. Altogether, 23 intrastrain heterogeneous sites (in 17 genes) were found in 5 out of 10 investigated treponemal genomes including TPA strains Nichols (n = 5), DAL-1 (n = 4), and SS14 (n = 7), TPE strain Samoa D (n = 1), and TEN strain Bosnia A (n = 5). Although only one heterogeneous site was identified among 4 tested TPE strains, 16 such sites were identified among 4 TPA strains. Heterogeneous sites were mostly strain-specific and were identified in four tpr genes (tprC, GI, I, K), in genes involved in bacterial motility and chemotaxis (fliI, cheC-fliY), in genes involved in cell structure (murC), translation (prfA), general and DNA metabolism (putative SAM dependent methyltransferase, topA), and in seven hypothetical genes.Heterogeneous sites likely represent both the selection of adaptive changes during infection of the host as well as an ongoing diversifying evolutionary process.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The pathogenic non-cultivable treponemes include three subspecies of Treponema pallidum (pallidum, pertenue, endemicum), T. carateum, T. paraluiscuniculi, and the unclassified Fribourg-Blanc treponeme (Simian isolate). These treponemes are morphologically indistinguishable and antigenically and genetically highly similar, yet cross-immunity is variable or non-existent. Although all of these organisms cause chronic, multistage skin and systemic disease, they have historically been classified by mode of transmission, clinical presentations and host ranges. Whole genome studies underscore the high degree of sequence identity among species, subspecies and strains, pinpointing a limited number of genomic regions for variation. Many of these "hot spots" include members of the tpr gene family, composed of 12 paralogs encoding candidate virulence factors. We hypothesize that the distinct clinical presentations, host specificity, and variable cross-immunity might reside on virulence factors such as the tpr genes.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>Sequence analysis of 11 tpr loci (excluding tprK) from 12 strains demonstrated an impressive heterogeneity, including SNPs, indels, chimeric genes, truncated gene products and large deletions. Comparative analyses of sequences and 3D models of predicted proteins in Subfamily I highlight the striking co-localization of discrete variable regions with predicted surface-exposed loops. A hallmark of Subfamily II is the presence of chimeric genes in the tprG and J loci. Diversity in Subfamily III is limited to tprA and tprL.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>An impressive sequence variability was found in tpr sequences among the Treponema isolates examined in this study, with most of the variation being consistent within subspecies or species, or between syphilis vs. non-syphilis strains. Variability was seen in the pallidum subspecies, which can be divided into 5 genogroups. These findings support a genetic basis for the classification of these organisms into their respective subspecies and species. Future functional studies will determine whether the identified genetic differences relate to cross-immunity, clinical differences, or host ranges.
Project description:This study examined the sequences of the two rRNA (rrn) operons of pathogenic non-cultivable treponemes, comprising 11 strains of T. pallidum ssp. pallidum (TPA), five strains of T. pallidum ssp. pertenue (TPE), two strains of T. pallidum ssp. endemicum (TEN), a simian Fribourg-Blanc strain and a rabbit T. paraluiscuniculi (TPc) strain. PCR was used to determine the type of 16S-23S ribosomal intergenic spacers in the rrn operons from 30 clinical samples belonging to five different genotypes. When compared with the TPA strains, TPc Cuniculi A strain had a 17 bp deletion, and the TPE, TEN and Fribourg-Blanc isolates had a deletion of 33 bp. Other than these deletions, only 17 heterogeneous sites were found within the entire region (excluding the 16S-23S intergenic spacer region encoding tRNA-Ile or tRNA-Ala). The pattern of nucleotide changes in the rrn operons corresponded to the classification of treponemal strains, whilst two different rrn spacer patterns (Ile/Ala and Ala/Ile) appeared to be distributed randomly across species/subspecies classification, time and geographical source of the treponemal strains. It is suggested that the random distribution of tRNA genes is caused by reciprocal translocation between repetitive sequences mediated by a recBCD-like system.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Pathogenic treponemes related to Treponema pallidum are both human (causing syphilis, yaws, bejel) and animal pathogens (infections of primates, venereal spirochetosis in rabbits). A set of 11 treponemal genome sequences including those of five Treponema pallidum ssp. pallidum (TPA) strains (Nichols, DAL-1, Mexico A, SS14, Chicago), four T. p. ssp. pertenue (TPE) strains (CDC-2, Gauthier, Samoa D, Fribourg-Blanc), one T. p. ssp. endemicum (TEN) strain (Bosnia A) and one strain (Cuniculi A) of Treponema paraluisleporidarum ecovar Cuniculus (TPeC) were tested for the presence of positively selected genes. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:A total of 1068 orthologous genes annotated in all 11 genomes were tested for the presence of positively selected genes using both site and branch-site models with CODEML (PAML package). Subsequent analyses with sequences obtained from 62 treponemal draft genomes were used for the identification of positively selected amino acid positions. Synthetic biotinylated peptides were designed to cover positively selected protein regions and these peptides were tested for reactivity with the patient's syphilis sera. Altogether, 22 positively selected genes were identified in the TP genomes and TPA sets of positively selected genes differed from TPE genes. While genetic variability among TPA strains was predominantly present in a number of genetic loci, genetic variability within TPE and TEN strains was distributed more equally along the chromosome. Several syphilitic sera were shown to react with some peptides derived from the protein sequences evolving under positive selection. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:The syphilis-, yaws-, and bejel-causing strains differed relative to sets of positively selected genes. Most of the positively selected chromosomal loci were identified among the TPA treponemes. The local accumulation of genetic variability suggests that the diversification of TPA strains took place predominantly in a limited number of genomic regions compared to the more dispersed genetic diversity differentiating TPE and TEN strains. The identification of positively selected sites in tpr genes and genes encoding outer membrane proteins suggests their role during infection of human and animal hosts. The driving force for adaptive evolution at these loci thus appears to be the host immune response as supported by observed reactivity of syphilitic sera with some peptides derived from protein sequences showing adaptive evolution.