Journal : BMC Genomics , vol. 23 , p. 12 , 2022
International Standard Numbers
Printed : 1471-2164
Electronic : 1471-2164
Publication type : Academic article
Issue : 1
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Background: Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) is an emerging health challenge worldwide and outbreaks caused by this pathogen poses a serious public health concern. Shiga toxin (Stx) is the major virulence factor of EHEC, and the stx genes are carried by temperate bacteriophages (Stx phages). The switch between lysogenic and lytic life cycle of the phage, which is crucial for Stx production and for severity of the disease, is regulated by the CI repressor which maintain latency by preventing transcription of the replication proteins. Three EHEC phage replication units (Eru1-3) in addition to the classical lambdoid replication region have been described previously, and Stx phages carrying the Eru1 replication region were associated with highly virulent EHEC strains. Results: In this study, we have classified the Eru replication region of 419 Stx phages. In addition to the lambdoid replication region and three already described Erus, ten novel Erus (Eru4 to Eru13) were detected. The lambdoid type, Eru1, Eru4 and Eru7 are widely distributed in Western Europe. Notably, EHEC strains involved in severe outbreaks in England and Norway carry Stx phages with Eru1, Eru2, Eru5 and Eru7 replication regions. Phylogenetic analysis of CI repressors from Stx phages revealed eight major clades that largely separate according to Eru type. Conclusion: The classification of replication regions and CI proteins of Stx phages provides an important platform for further studies aimed to assess how characteristics of the replication region influence the regulation of phage life cycle and, consequently, the virulence potential of the host EHEC strain.