Chapter 45 : Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis

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Horizontally transferred genes were frequently disseminated among bacterial populations as components of mobile genetic elements, such as plasmids, phages, and transposons. This chapter focuses on bacterial pathogens, and in particular, on the role of sequence-specific mechanisms for intercellular gene transfer in the evolution of such organisms. It concentrates on virulence factors encoded by genes on mobilizable or formerly mobilizable genetic elements, especially plasmids, bacteriophages, and pathogenicity islands (PAIs). Finally, analyses based on the different classes of mobile elements can highlight the processes by which virulence genes have been transported and illuminate the evolutionary relationships between types of mobile elements. In the chapter, the last-mentioned approach is used, and bacteriophages, plasmids, and PAIs are sequentially discussed. Finally, some plasmids, such as the large virulence plasmid and the enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) virulence plasmid, contain remnants of DNA transfer systems, suggesting that they were previously capable of self-mobilization. Although the virulence genes acquired as components of mobile elements may not have been subject to host regulatory processes immediately after acquisition, they clearly have not remained autonomous agents, independent of host functions. Mobile genetic elements have clearly distributed a diverse collection of virulence genes and thereby played essential roles in the evolution of bacterial pathogens. However, a subset of virulence factors does not seem to confer any advantages on the bacterial hosts, so the forces underlying their continued production are a mystery.

Citation: Davis B, Waldor M. 2002. Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 1040-1059. In Craig N, Craigie R, Gellert M, Lambowitz A (ed), Mobile DNA II. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817954.ch45
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Image of Figure 1.
Figure 1.

(A) Precise excision of a prophage from chromosomal flanking sequence. (B) Imprecise excision of a prophage, resulting in incorporation of adjacent chromosomal sequences into the phage genome and transfer of these sequences to a new host.

Citation: Davis B, Waldor M. 2002. Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 1040-1059. In Craig N, Craigie R, Gellert M, Lambowitz A (ed), Mobile DNA II. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817954.ch45
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Image of Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Regulation of virulence gene expression in by transcription factors encoded within the chromosome and within the VPI. An ancestral chromosomal gene, regulates expression both of (encoding cholera toxin), which is part of the CTX prophage, and (encoding another regulator of virulence gene expression), which is part of the vibrio pathogenicity island (VPI). ToxT is required for expression of and other genes on the VPI, including the TCP and ACF gene clusters, which encode factors required for intestinal colonization ( ). Additional factors encoded on the chromosome and on the VPI also participate in this regulatory network (not shown). Black triangles represent the direct repeats that flank the VPI and the CTX prophage, encodes the putative VPI integrase, and encodes the major subunit of the toxin-coregulated pilus (TCP).

Citation: Davis B, Waldor M. 2002. Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 1040-1059. In Craig N, Craigie R, Gellert M, Lambowitz A (ed), Mobile DNA II. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817954.ch45
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Generic image for table
Table 1

Virulence-linked bacteriophages

Citation: Davis B, Waldor M. 2002. Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 1040-1059. In Craig N, Craigie R, Gellert M, Lambowitz A (ed), Mobile DNA II. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817954.ch45
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Table 2

Virulence-linked plasmids

Citation: Davis B, Waldor M. 2002. Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 1040-1059. In Craig N, Craigie R, Gellert M, Lambowitz A (ed), Mobile DNA II. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817954.ch45
Generic image for table
Table 3

Type IV secretion systems

Citation: Davis B, Waldor M. 2002. Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 1040-1059. In Craig N, Craigie R, Gellert M, Lambowitz A (ed), Mobile DNA II. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817954.ch45
Generic image for table
Table 4

Pathogenicity islands

Citation: Davis B, Waldor M. 2002. Mobile Genetic Elements and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 1040-1059. In Craig N, Craigie R, Gellert M, Lambowitz A (ed), Mobile DNA II. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817954.ch45

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