Campylobacter jejuni is a human bacterial pathogen. While poultry is considered to be a major source of food borne campylobacteriosis, C. jejuni is frequently found in the external environment, and water is another well-known source of human infections. Natural transformation is considered to be one of the main mechanisms for mediating transfer of genetic material and evolution of the organism. Given the diverse habitats of C. jejuni we set out to examine how environmental conditions and physiological processes affect natural transformation of C. jejuni. We show that the efficiency of transformation is correlated to the growth conditions, but more importantly that transformation occurs at growth-restrictive conditions as well as in the late stationary phase; hence revealing that growth per se is not required for C. jejuni to be competent. Yet, natural transformation of C. jejuni is an energy dependent process, that occurs in the absence of transcription but requires an active translational machinery. Moreover, we show the ATP dependent ClpP protease to be important for transformation, which possibly could be associated with reduced protein glycosylation in the ClpP mutant. In contrast, competence of C. jejuni was neither found to be involved in DNA repair following DNA damage nor to provide a growth benefit. Kinetic studies revealed that several transformation events occur per cell cycle indicating that natural transformation of C. jejuni is a highly efficient process. Thus, our findings suggest that horizontal gene transfer by natural transformation takes place in various habitats occupied by C. jejuni.
Bibliographical noteThis work was supported by the Danish Research Council for Technology and Production Sciences. The funders had no role in study design, data
collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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