Jibrin, M. O., Minsavage, G. V., Goss, E. M., Roberts, P. D., & Jones, J. B. (2019). Gene transfer agents in plant pathogenic bacteria: comparative mobilomics, genomic survey and recombinogenic impacts. bioRxiv (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory). https://doi.org/10.1101/687996
Background Gene transfer agents (GTAs) are phage-like mediators of gene transfer in bacterial species. Typically, strains of a bacteria species which have GTA shows more recombination than strains without GTAs. GTA-mediated gene transfer activity has been shown for few bacteria, with Rhodobacter capsulatus being the prototypical GTA. GTA have not been previously studied in plant pathogenic bacteria. A recent study inferring recombination in strains of the bacterial spot xanthomonads identified a Nigerian lineage which showed unusual recombination background. We initially set out to understand genomic drivers of recombination in this genome by focusing on mobile genetic elements.
Results We identified a unique cluster which was present in the Nigerian strain but absent in other sequenced strains of bacterial spot xanthomonads. The protein sequence of a gene within this cluster contained the GTA_TIM domain that is present in bacteria with GTA. We identified GTA clusters in other Xanthomonas species as well as species of Agrobacterium and Pantoea. Recombination analyses showed that generally, strains of Xanthomonas with GTA have more inferred recombination events than strains without GTA, which could lead to genome divergence.
Conclusion This study identified GTA clusters in species of the plant pathogen genera Xanthomonas, Agrobacterium and Pantoea which we have named XpGTA, AgGTA andPaGTA respectively. Our recombination analyses suggest that Xanthomonas strains with GTA generally have more inferred recombination events than strains without GTA. The study is important in understanding the drivers of evolution of bacterial plant pathogens.