Comparative Genomics Reveals High Genomic Diversity in the Genus Photobacterium

Henrique Machado, Lone Gram

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Vibrionaceae is a large marine bacterial family, which can constitute up to 50% of the prokaryotic population in marine waters. Photobacterium is the second largest genus in the family and we used comparative genomics on 35 strains representing 16 of the 28 species described so far, to understand the genomic diversity present in the Photobacterium genus. Such understanding is important for ecophysiology studies of the genus. We used whole genome sequences to evaluate phylogenetic relationships using several analyses (16S rRNA, MLSA, fur, amino-acid usage, ANI), which allowed us to identify two misidentified strains. Genome analyses also revealed occurrence of higher and lower GC content clades, correlating with phylogenetic clusters. Pan-and core-genome analysis revealed the conservation of 25% of the genome throughout the genus, with a large and open pan-genome. The major source of genomic diversity could be traced to the smaller chromosome and plasmids. Several of the physiological traits studied in the genus did not correlate with phylogenetic data. Since horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is often suggested as a source of genetic diversity and a potential driver of genomic evolution in bacterial species, we looked into evidence of such in Photobacterium genomes. Genomic islands were the source of genomic differences between strains of the same species. Also, we found transposase genes and CRISPR arrays that suggest multiple encounters with foreign DNA. Presence of genomic exchange traits was widespread and abundant in the genus, suggesting a role in genomic evolution. The high genetic variability and indications of genetic exchange make it difficult to elucidate genome evolutionary paths and raise the awareness of the roles of foreign DNA in the genomic evolution of environmental organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1204
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Photobacterium
  • Vibrionaceae
  • Comparative genomics
  • Pan-genome
  • Core-genome


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