Background: Comparative genomics can be an initial step in finding the genetic basis for phenotypic differences among bacterial strains and species. Bacteria belonging to the genus Providencia have been isolated from numerous and varied environments. We sequenced, annotated and compared draft genomes of P. rettgeri, P. sneebia, P. alcalifaciens, and P. burhodogranariea. These bacterial species that were all originally isolated as infections of wild Drosophila melanogaster and have been previously shown to vary in virulence to experimentally infected flies.
Results: We found that these Providencia species share a large core genome, but also possess distinct sets of genes that are unique to each isolate. We compared the genomes of these isolates to draft genomes of four Providencia isolated from the human gut and found that the core genome size does not substantially change upon inclusion of the human isolates. We found many adhesion related genes among those genes that were unique to each genome. We also found that each isolate has at least one type 3 secretion system (T3SS), a known virulence factor, though not all identified T3SS belong to the same family nor are they in syntenic genomic locations.
Conclusions: The Providencia species examined here are characterized by high degree of genomic similarity which will likely extend to other species and isolates within this genus. The presence of T3SS islands in all of the genomes reveal that their presence is not sufficient to indicate virulence towards D. melanogaster, since some of the T3SS-bearing isolates are known to cause little mortality. The variation in adhesion genes and the presence of T3SSs indicates that host cell adhesion is likely an important aspect of Providencia virulence.