Background: Extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), including Avian Pathogenic E. coli (APEC), are very diverse. They cause a complex of diseases in Human, animals, and birds. Even though large plasmids are often associated with the virulence of ExPEC, their characterization is still in its infancy.
Methodology/principal findings: We fully sequenced and analyzed the large plasmid pAPEC-1 (103,275-bp) associated with the APEC strain chi7122, from worldwide serogroup O78ratioK80ratioH9. A putative virulence region spanning an 80-kb region of pAPEC-1 possesses four iron acquisition systems (iutA iucABCD, sitABCD, iroBCDN, and temperature-sensitive hemagglutinin tsh), a colicin V operon, increasing serum sensitivity iss, ompT, hlyF, and etsABC. Thirty three ORFs in pAPEC-1 are identified as insertion sequences (ISs) that belong to nine families with diverse origins. The full length of the transfer region in pAPEC-1 (11 kb) is shorter compared to the tra region of other sequenced F plasmids; the absence of some tra genes in pAPEC-1 affects its self-transferability, and the conjugative function of the plasmid was effective only in the presence of other plasmids. Two-replicon systems, repFIIA-repFIC and repFIB, and two post-segregational systems, srnB and hok/sok, are also present in the sequence of pAPEC-1. The comparison of the pAPEC-1 sequence with the two available plasmid sequences reveals more gene loss and reorganization than previously appreciated. The presence of pAPEC-1-associated genes is assessed in human ExPEC by PCR. Many patterns of association between genes are found.
Conclusions/significance: The pathotype typical of pAPEC-1 was present in some human strains, which indicates a horizontal transfer between strains and the zoonotic risk of APEC strains. ColV plasmids could have common virulence genes that could be acquired by transposition, without sharing genes of plasmid function.