ABSTRACT: The distributed genome hypothesis (DGH) states that each strain within a bacterial species receives a unique distribution of genes from a population-based supragenome that is many times larger than the genome of any given strain. The observations that natural infecting populations are often polyclonal and that most chronic bacterial pathogens have highly developed mechanisms for horizontal gene transfer suggested the DGH and provided the means and the mechanisms to explain how chronic infections persist in the face of a mammalian host's adaptive defense mechanisms. Having previously established the validity of the DGH for obligate pathogens, we wished to evaluate its applicability to an opportunistic bacterial pathogen. This was accomplished by construction and analysis of a highly redundant pooled genomic library containing approximately 216,000 functional clones that was constructed from 12 low-passage clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, 6 otorrheic isolates and 6 from other body sites. Sequence analysis of 3,214 randomly picked clones (mean insert size, approximately 1.4 kb) from this library demonstrated that 348 (10.8%) of the clones were unique with respect to all genomic sequences of the P. aeruginosa prototype strain, PAO1. Hypothetical translations of the open reading frames within these unique sequences demonstrated protein homologies to a number of bacterial virulence factors and other proteins not previously identified in P. aeruginosa. PCR and reverse transcription-PCR-based assays were performed to analyze the distribution and expression patterns of a 70-open reading frame subset of these sequences among 11 of the clinical strains. These sequences were unevenly distributed among the clinical isolates, with nearly half (34/70) of the novel sequences being present in only one or two of the individual strains. Expression profiling revealed that a vast majority of these sequences are expressed, strongly suggesting they encode functional proteins.
Infection and Immunity 10/2006; 74(9):5272-83. · 4.16 Impact Factor