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Rigshospitalet - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital
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Gene Loss and Acquisition in Lineages of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Evolving in Cystic Fibrosis Patient Airways

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Genome analyses have documented that there are differences in gene repertoire between evolutionary distant lineages of the same bacterial species; however, less is known about microevolutionary dynamics of gene loss and acquisition within bacterial lineages as they evolve over years. Here, we analyzed the genomes of 45 Pseudomonas aeruginosa lineages evolving in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients to identify genes that are lost or acquired during the first years of infection. On average, lineage genome content changed by 88 genes (range, 0 to 473). Genes were more often lost than acquired, and prophage genes were more variable than bacterial genes. We identified convergent loss or acquisition of the same genes across lineages, suggesting selection for loss and acquisition of certain genes in the host environment. We found that a notable proportion of such genes are associated with virulence; a trait previously shown to be important for adaptation. Furthermore, we also compared the genomes across lineages to show that the within-lineage variable genes (i.e., genes that had been lost or acquired during the infection) often belonged to genomic content not shared across all lineages. In sum, our analysis adds to the knowledge on the pace and drivers of gene loss and acquisition in bacteria evolving over years in a human host environment and provides a basis to further understand how gene loss and acquisition play roles in lineage differentiation and host adaptation.IMPORTANCE Bacterial airway infections, predominantly caused by P. aeruginosa, are a major cause of mortality and morbidity of CF patients. While short insertions and deletions as well as point mutations occurring during infection are well studied, there is a lack of understanding of how gene loss and acquisition play roles in bacterial adaptation to the human airways. Here, we investigated P. aeruginosa within-host evolution with regard to gene loss and acquisition. We show that during long-term infection P. aeruginosa genomes tend to lose genes, in particular, genes related to virulence. This adaptive strategy allows reduction of the genome size and evasion of the host's immune response. This knowledge is crucial to understand the basic mutational steps that, on the timescale of years, diversify lineages and adds to the identification of bacterial genetic determinants that have implications for CF disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalmBio
Volume11
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)e02359-20
ISSN2161-2129
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2020

ID: 62069031