Conjugation genes are common throughout the genus Rickettsia and are transmitted horizontally

Lucy A. Weinert, John J. Welch, Francis M. Jiggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Rickettsia are endosymbionts of arthropods, some of which are vectored to vertebrates where they cause disease. Recently, it has been found that some Rickettsia strains harbour conjugative plasmids and others encode some conjugative machinery within the bacterial genome. We investigated the distribution of these conjugation genes in a phylogenetically diverse collection of Rickettsia isolated from arthropods. We found that these genes are common throughout the genus and, in stark contrast to other genes in the genome, conjugation genes are frequently horizontally transmitted between strains. There is no evidence to suggest that these genes are preferentially transferred between phylogenetically related strains, which is surprising given that closely related strains infect similar host species. In addition to detecting patterns of horizontal transmission between diverse Rickettsia species, these findings have implications for the evolution of pathogenicity, the evolution of Rickettsia genomes and the genetic manipulation of intracellular bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3619-3627
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Volume276
Issue number1673
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2009

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