Lateral gene transfer between obligate intracellular bacteria: evidence from the Rickettsia massiliae genome

Genome Res. 2007 Nov;17(11):1657-64. doi: 10.1101/gr.6742107. Epub 2007 Oct 4.


Rickettsia massiliae is a tick-borne obligate intracellular alpha-proteobacteria causing spotted fever in humans. Here, we present the sequence of its genome, comprising a 1.3-Mb circular chromosome and a 15.3-kb plasmid. The chromosome exhibits long-range colinearity with the other Spotted Fever Group Rickettsia genomes, except for a large fragment specific to R. massiliae that contains 14 tra genes presumably involved in pilus formation and conjugal DNA transfer. We demonstrate that the tra region was acquired recently by lateral gene transfer (LGT) from a species related to Rickettsia bellii. Further analysis of the genomic sequences identifies additional candidates of LGT between Rickettsia. Our study indicates that recent LGT between obligate intracellular Rickettsia is more common than previously thought.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Rickettsia / genetics*
  • Rickettsia Infections / genetics