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Chapter 14 : Clostridium perfringens
Clostridium perfringens is one of the most frequent causative agents of human food-poisoning worldwide. Strains of C. perfringens are divided into five distinct toxin types on the basis of their differential production of four major C. perfringens extracellular toxins. The published genomes of C. perfringens ATCC 13124, SM101, and strain 13 contain single circular chromosomes of 3,256,683, 2,897,393, and 3,031,430 bp, respectively. The genome sequence of C. perfringens strain 13 was examined to identify catabolic pathways that may utilize such sugar substrates as energy sources. Importantly, the fermentative pathways were predicted to lead to the production of CO2 and H2 gasses that may be involved in the establishment of an anaerobic environment within an infected host suitable for C. perfringens growth. One of the hallmark characteristics of clostridial species is their capacity to form endospores, which are essentially highly modified dormant cells resistant to extremes of heat and radiation. In C. perfringens strain 13, 49 genes involved in capsule production were found to be organized into a single large gene cluster. Beyond broadening one's appreciation for toxin genes, the genome sequences highlighted additional factors that may facilitate the pathogenic potential of this organism, for example, genes involved in capsule production and in sporulation. Future studies will explore the precise functional roles of these genes in the virulence of C. perfringens and may yield avenues to combating C. perfringens infections.