Common ancestry and novel genetic traits of Francisella novicida-like isolates from North America and Australia as revealed by comparative genomic analyses.
Francisella novicida is a close relative of Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia. The genomes of F. novicida-like clinical isolates 3523 (Australian strain) and Fx1 (Texas strain) were sequenced and compared to F. novicida strain U112 and F. tularensis strain Schu S4. The strain 3523 chromosome is 1,945,310 bp and contains 1,854 protein-coding genes. The strain Fx1 chromosome is 1,913,619 bp and contains 1,819 protein-coding genes. NUCmer analyses revealed that the genomes of strains Fx1 and U112 are mostly colinear, whereas the genome of strain 3523 has gaps, translocations, and/or inversions compared to genomes of strains Fx1 and U112. Using the genome sequence data and comparative analyses with other members of the genus Francisella, several strain-specific genes that encode putative proteins involved in RTX toxin production, polysaccharide biosynthesis/modification, thiamine biosynthesis, glucuronate utilization, and polyamine biosynthesis were identified. The RTX toxin synthesis and secretion operon of strain 3523 contains four open reading frames (ORFs) and was named rtxCABD. Based on the alignment of conserved sequences upstream of operons involved in thiamine biosynthesis from various bacteria, a putative THI box was identified in strain 3523. The glucuronate catabolism loci of strains 3523 and Fx1 contain a cluster of nine ORFs oriented in the same direction that appear to constitute an operon. Strains U112 and Schu S4 appeared to have lost the loci for RTX toxin production, thiamine biosynthesis, and glucuronate utilization as a consequence of host adaptation and reductive evolution. In conclusion, comparative analyses provided insights into the common ancestry and novel genetic traits of these strains.