A PCR-based genotyping system that detects divergence of IS100 locations within the Yersinia pestis genome was used to characterize a large collection of isolates of different biovars and geographical origins. Using sequences derived from the glycerol-negative biovar orientalis strain CO92, a set of 27 locus-specific primers was designed to amplify fragments between the end of IS100 and its neighboring gene. Geographically diverse members of the orientalis biovar formed a homogeneous group with identical genotype with the exception of strains isolated in Indochina. In contrast, strains belonging to the glycerol-positive biovar antiqua showed a variety of fingerprinting profiles. Moreover, strains of the biovar medievalis (also glycerol positive) clustered together with the antiqua isolates originated from Southeast Asia, suggesting their close phylogenetic relationships. Interestingly, a Manchurian biovar antiqua strain Nicholisk 51 displayed a genotyping pattern typical of biovar orientalis isolates. Analysis of the glycerol pathway in Y. pestis suggested that a 93-bp deletion within the glpD gene encoding aerobic glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase might account for the glycerol-negative phenotype of the orientalis biovar. The glpD gene of strain Nicholisk 51 did not possess this deletion, although it contained two nucleotide substitutions characteristic of the glpD version found exclusively in biovar orientalis strains. To account for this close relationship between biovar orientalis strains and the antiqua Nicholisk 51 isolate, we postulate that the latter represents a variant of this biovar with restored ability to ferment glycerol. The fact that such a genetic lesion might be repaired as part of the natural evolutionary process suggests the existence of genetic exchange between different Yersinia strains in nature. The relevance of this observation on the emergence of epidemic Y. pestis strains is discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology