Genome diversity among regional populations of Francisella tularensis subspecies tularensis and Francisella tularensis subspecies holarctica isolated from the US.
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Francisella tularensis is a highly infectious facultative intracellular pathogen that is considered a potential agent of bioterrorism. Four different F. tularensis subspecies have been identified and they appear to display different ecological and virulence characteristics as well as differences in geographical distribution. One simple explanation for the variation in ecological and virulence characteristics is that they are conferred by differences in genome content. To characterize genome content among stains isolated from United States, we have used a DNA microarray designed from a shotgun library of a reference strain. Polymorphisms distributed among polyphyletic sets of strains was the most common pattern of genome alteration observed, indicating that strain-specific genome variability is significant. Nonetheless, 13 different contiguous segments of the genome were found to be missing exclusively in each of the subsp. holarctica strains tested. All 13 are associated with repeat sequences or transposases that could promote insertion/deletion events. Comparison of the live vaccine strain to other holarctica strains also identified three regions that are absent exclusively in the live vaccine strain derived from holarctica.