Genome dynamics in major bacterial pathogens

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2009 May;33(3):453-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2009.00173.x.


Pathogenic bacteria continuously encounter multiple forms of stress in their hostile environments, which leads to DNA damage. With the new insight into biology offered by genome sequences, the elucidation of the gene content encoding proteins provides clues toward understanding the microbial lifestyle related to habitat and niche. Campylobacter jejuni, Haemophilus influenzae, Helicobacter pylori, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the pathogenic Neisseria, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus are major human pathogens causing detrimental morbidity and mortality at a global scale. An algorithm for the clustering of orthologs was established in order to identify whether orthologs of selected genes were present or absent in the genomes of the pathogenic bacteria under study. Based on the known genes for the various functions and their orthologs in selected pathogenic bacteria, an overview of the presence of the different types of genes was created. In this context, we focus on selected processes enabling genome dynamics in these particular pathogens, namely DNA repair, recombination and horizontal gene transfer. An understanding of the precise molecular functions of the enzymes participating in DNA metabolism and their importance in the maintenance of bacterial genome integrity has also, in recent years, indicated a future role for these enzymes as targets for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Recombination, Genetic


  • DNA, Bacterial