The rhizome of the multidrug-resistant Enterobacter aerogenes genome reveals how new "killer bugs" are created because of a sympatric lifestyle

Mol Biol Evol. 2013 Feb;30(2):369-83. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss236. Epub 2012 Oct 15.


Here, we sequenced the 5,419,609 bp circular genome of an Enterobacter aerogenes clinical isolate that killed a patient and was resistant to almost all current antibiotics (except gentamicin) commonly used to treat Enterobacterial infections, including colistin. Genomic and phylogenetic analyses explain the discrepancies of this bacterium and show that its core genome originates from another genus, Klebsiella. Atypical characteristics of this bacterium (i.e., motility, presence of ornithine decarboxylase, and lack of urease activity) are attributed to genomic mosaicism, by acquisition of additional genes, such as the complete 60,582 bp flagellar assembly operon acquired "en bloc" from the genus Serratia. The genealogic tree of the 162,202 bp multidrug-resistant conjugative plasmid shows that it is a chimera of transposons and integrative conjugative elements from various bacterial origins, resembling a rhizome. Moreover, we demonstrate biologically that a G53S mutation in the pmrA gene results in colistin resistance. E. aerogenes has a large RNA population comprising 8 rRNA operons and 87 cognate tRNAs that have the ability to translate transferred genes that use different codons, as exemplified by the significantly different codon usage between genes from the core genome and the "mobilome." On the basis of our findings, the evolution of this bacterium to become a "killer bug" with new genomic repertoires was from three criteria that are "opportunity, power, and usage" to indicate a sympatric lifestyle: "opportunity" to meet other bacteria and exchange foreign sequences since this bacteria was similar to sympatric bacteria; "power" to integrate these foreign sequences such as the acquisition of several mobile genetic elements (plasmids, integrative conjugative element, prophages, transposons, flagellar assembly system, etc.) found in his genome; and "usage" to have the ability to translate these sequences including those from rare codons to serve as a translator of foreign languages.

MeSH terms

  • Base Composition
  • Codon
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Enterobacter aerogenes / classification
  • Enterobacter aerogenes / drug effects
  • Enterobacter aerogenes / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Order
  • Genes, Essential
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Klebsiella / classification
  • Klebsiella / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phenotype
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Proteome
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Rhizome / genetics*


  • Codon
  • Proteome
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • GENBANK/FO203353
  • GENBANK/FO203354
  • GENBANK/FO203355