Differences in the Accessory Genomes and Methylomes of Strains of Streptococcus equi subsp. equi and of Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus Obtained from the Respiratory Tract of Horses from Texas. Academic Article uri icon


  • Streptococcus equi subsp. equi (SEE) is a host-restricted equine pathogen considered to have evolved from Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus (SEZ). SEZ is promiscuous in host range and is commonly recovered from horses as a commensal. Comparison of a single strain each of SEE and SEZ using whole-genome sequencing, supplemented by PCR of selected genes in additional SEE and SEZ strains, was used to characterize the evolution of SEE. But the known genetic variability of SEZ warrants comparison of the whole genomes of multiple SEE and SEZ strains. To fill this knowledge gap, we utilized whole-genome sequencing to characterize the accessory genome elements (AGEs; i.e., elements present in some SEE strains but absent in SEZ or vice versa) and methylomes of 50 SEE and 50 SEZ isolates from Texas. Consistent with previous findings, AGEs consistently found in all SEE isolates were primarily from mobile genetic elements that might contribute to host restriction or pathogenesis of SEE. Fewer AGEs were identified in SEZ because of the greater genomic variability among these isolates. The global methylation patterns of SEE isolates were more consistent than those of the SEZ isolates. Among homologous genes of SEE and SEZ, differential methylation was identified only in genes of SEE encoding proteins with functions of quorum sensing, exopeptidase activity, and transitional metal ion binding. Our results indicate that effects of genetic mobile elements in SEE and differential methylation of genes shared by SEE and SEZ might contribute to the host specificity of SEE. IMPORTANCE Strangles, caused by the host-specific bacterium Streptococcus equi subsp. equi (SEE), is the most commonly diagnosed infectious disease of horses worldwide. Its ancestor, Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus (SEZ), is frequently isolated from a wide array of hosts, including horses and humans. A comparison of the genomes of a single strain of SEE and SEZ has been reported, but sequencing of further isolates has revealed variability among SEZ strains. Thus, the importance of this study is that it characterizes genomic and methylomic differences of multiple SEE and SEZ isolates from a common geographic region (viz., Texas). Our results affirm many of the previously described differences between the genomes of SEE and SEZ, including the role of mobile genetic elements in contributing to host restriction. We also provide the first characterization of the global methylome of Streptococcus equi and evidence that differential methylation might contribute to the host restriction of SEE.

published proceedings

  • Microbiol Spectr

author list (cited authors)

  • Morris, E., Wu, J., Bordin, A. I., Lawhon, S. D., & Cohen, N. D.

complete list of authors

  • Morris, Ellen Ruth A||Wu, Jing||Bordin, Angela I||Lawhon, Sara D||Cohen, Noah D

editor list (cited editors)

  • Andam, C. P.

publication date

  • February 2022