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A Genomic Island in Salmonella enterica ssp. salamae Provides New Insights on the Genealogy of the Locus of Enterocyte Effacement

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041615
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Evolutionary Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Bacterial Pathogens
  • Escherichia Coli
  • Gram Negative
  • Salmonella
  • Bacteriology
  • Bacterial Evolution
  • Microbial Evolution
  • Microbial Pathogens
  • Pathogenesis
  • Model Organisms
  • Prokaryotic Models
  • Medicine
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Bacterial Diseases
  • Zoonoses
  • Biology


The genomic island encoding the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) is an important virulence factor of the human pathogenic Escherichia coli. LEE typically encodes a type III secretion system (T3SS) and secreted effectors capable of forming attaching and effacing lesions. Although prominent in the pathogenic E. coli such as serotype O157:H7, LEE has also been detected in Citrobacter rodentium, E. albertii, and although not confirmed, it is likely to also be in Shigella boydii. Previous phylogenetic analysis of LEE indicated the genomic island was evolving through stepwise acquisition of various components. This study describes a new LEE region from two strains of Salmonella enterica subspecies salamae serovar Sofia along with a phylogenetic analysis of LEE that provides new insights into the likely evolution of this genomic island. The Salmonella LEE contains 36 of the 41 genes typically observed in LEE within a genomic island of 49, 371 bp that encodes a total of 54 genes. A phylogenetic analysis was performed on the entire T3SS and four T3SS genes (escF, escJ, escN, and escV) to elucidate the genealogy of LEE. Phylogenetic analysis inferred that the previously known LEE islands are members of a single lineage distinct from the new Salmonella LEE lineage. The previously known lineage of LEE diverged between islands found in Citrobacter and those in Escherichia and Shigella. Although recombination and horizontal gene transfer are important factors in the genealogy of most genomic islands, the phylogeny of the T3SS of LEE can be interpreted with a bifurcating tree. It seems likely that the LEE island entered the Enterobacteriaceae through horizontal gene transfer as a single unit, rather than as separate subsections, which was then subjected to the forces of both mutational change and recombination.

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