A Distinct and Divergent Lineage of Genomic Island-Associated Type IV Secretion Systems in Legionella

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Journal article
Wee, B et al. 2013, 'A Distinct and Divergent Lineage of Genomic Island-Associated Type IV Secretion Systems in Legionella', Plos One, vol. 8, no. 12, pp. e82221-1-e82221-13.
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Legionella encodes multiple classes of Type IV Secretion Systems (T4SSs), including the Dot/Icm protein secretion system that is essential for intracellular multiplication in amoebal and human hosts. Other T4SSs not essential for virulence are thought to facilitate the acquisition of niche-specific adaptation genes including the numerous effector genes that are a hallmark of this genus. Previously, we identified two novel gene clusters in the draft genome of Legionella pneumophila strain 130b that encode homologues of a subtype of T4SS, the genomic island-associated T4SS (GI-T4SS), usually associated with integrative and conjugative elements (ICE). In this study, we performed genomic analyses of 14 homologous GI-T4SS clusters found in eight publicly available Legionella genomes and show that this cluster is unusually well conserved in a region of high plasticity. Phylogenetic analyses show that Legionella GI-T4SSs are substantially divergent from other members of this subtype of T4SS and represent a novel clade of GI-T4SSs only found in this genus. The GI-T4SS was found to be under purifying selection, suggesting it is functional and may play an important role in the evolution and adaptation of Legionella. Like other GI-T4SSs, the Legionella clusters are also associated with ICEs, but lack the typical integration and replication modules of related ICEs.
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