Ecotypes of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex

J Theor Biol. 2006 Mar 21;239(2):220-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2005.08.036. Epub 2005 Oct 20.


A phylogeny of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex has recently shown that the animal-adapted strains are found in a single lineage marked by the deletion of chromosomal region 9 (RD9) [Brosch et al., 2002. A new evolutionary scenario for the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 99 (6), 3684-3689]. We have obtained the spoligotype patterns of the RD9 deleted strains used to generate this new evolutionary scenario and we show that the presence of spoligotype spacers 3, 9, 16, 39, and 40-43 is phylogenetically informative in this lineage. We have used the phylogenetically informative spoligotype spacers to screen a database of spoligotype patterns and have identified further members of a group of strains apparently host-adapted to antelopes. The presence of the spoligotype spacers is congruent with the phylogeny generated by chromosomal deletions, suggesting that recombination is rare or absent between strains of this lineage. The phylogenetically informative spacers, in concert with the previously identified single nucleotide mutations and chromosomal deletions, can be used to identify a series of clades in the RD9 deleted lineage each with a separate host preference. Finally, we discuss the application of the ecotype concept to this series of clades and suggest that the M. tuberculosis complex may best be described as a series of host-adapted ecotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antelopes / microbiology
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques
  • Biological Evolution
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / classification
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics*
  • Phylogeny