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The influence of the accessory genome on bacterial pathogen evolution

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  • Biology

Abstract

Bacterial pathogens exhibit significant variation in their genomic content of virulence factors. This reflects the abundance of strategies pathogens evolved to infect host organisms by suppressing host immunity. Molecular armsraces have been a strong driving force for the evolution of pathogenicity, with pathogens often encoding overlapping or redundant functions, such as type III protein secretion effectors and hosts encoding ever more sophisticated immune systems. The pathogens’ frequent exposure to other microbes, either in their host or in the environment, provides opportunities for the acquisition or interchange of mobile genetic elements. These DNA elements accessorize the core genome and can play major roles in shaping genome structure and altering the complement of virulence factors. Here, we review the different mobile genetic elements focusing on the more recent discoveries and highlighting their role in shaping bacterial pathogen evolution.

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