Genome sequence of Brucella abortus vaccine strain S19 compared to virulent strains yields candidate virulence genes
The Brucella abortus strain S19, a spontaneously attenuated strain, has been used as a vaccine strain in vaccination of cattle against brucellosis for six decades. Despite many studies, the physiological and molecular mechanisms causing the attenuation are not known. We have applied pyrosequencing technology together with conventional sequencing to rapidly and comprehensively determine the complete genome sequence of the attenuated Brucella abortus vaccine strain S19. The main goal of this study is to identify candidate virulence genes by systematic comparative analysis of the attenuated strain with the published genome sequences of two virulent and closely related strains of B. abortus, 9–941 and 2308. The two S19 chromosomes are 2,122,487 and 1,161,449 bp in length. A total of 3062 genes were identified and annotated. Pairwise and reciprocal genome comparisons resulted in a total of 263 genes that were non-identical between the S19 genome and any of the two virulent strains. Amongst these, 45 genes were consistently different between the attenuated strain and the two virulent strains but were identical amongst the virulent strains, which included only two of the 236 genes that have been implicated as virulence factors in literature. The functional analyses of the differences have revealed a total of 24 genes that may be associated with the loss of virulence in S19. Of particular relevance are four genes with more than 60bp consistent difference in S19 compared to both the virulent strains, which, in the virulent strains, encode an outer membrane protein and three proteins involved in erythritol uptake or metabolism.