Background: Two component systems (TCS) are signal transduction pathways which typically consist of a sensor histidine kinase (HK) and a response regulator (RR). In this study, we have analyzed the evolution of TCS of the OmpR/IIIA family in Lactobacillaceae and Leuconostocaceae, two families belonging to the group of lactic acid bacteria (LAB). LAB colonize nutrient-rich environments such as foodstuffs, plant materials and the gastrointestinal tract of animals thus driving the study of this group of both basic and applied interest.
Results: The genomes of 19 strains belonging to 16 different species have been analyzed. The number of TCS encoded by the strains considered in this study varied between 4 in Lactobacillus helveticus and 17 in Lactobacillus casei. The OmpR/IIIA family was the most prevalent in Lactobacillaceae accounting for 71% of the TCS present in this group. The phylogenetic analysis shows that no new TCS of this family has recently evolved in these Lactobacillaceae by either lineage-specific gene expansion or domain shuffling. Furthermore, no clear evidence of non-orthologous replacements of either RR or HK partners has been obtained, thus indicating that coevolution of cognate RR and HKs has been prevalent in Lactobacillaceae.
Conclusions: The results obtained suggest that vertical inheritance of TCS present in the last common ancestor and lineage-specific gene losses appear as the main evolutionary forces involved in their evolution in Lactobacillaceae, although some HGT events cannot be ruled out. This would agree with the genomic analyses of Lactobacillales which show that gene losses have been a major trend in the evolution of this group.