Streptococcus suis is a major porcine and zoonotic pathogen responsible for significant economic losses in the pig industry and an increasing number of human cases. Multiple isolates of S. suis show marked genomic diversity. Here, we report the analysis of whole genome sequences of nine pig isolates that caused disease typical of S. suis and had phenotypic characteristics of S. suis, but their genomes were divergent from those of many other S. suis isolates. Comparison of protein sequences predicted from divergent genomes with those from normal S. suis reduced the size of core genome from 793 to only 397 genes. Divergence was clear if phylogenetic analysis was performed on reduced core genes and MLST alleles. Phylogenies based on certain other genes (16S rRNA, sodA, recN, and cpn60) did not show divergence for all isolates, suggesting recombination between some divergent isolates with normal S. suis for these genes. Indeed, there is evidence of recent recombination between the divergent and normal S. suis genomes for 249 of 397 core genes. In addition, phylogenetic analysis based on the 16S rRNA gene and 132 genes that were conserved between the divergent isolates and representatives of the broader Streptococcus genus showed that divergent isolates were more closely related to S. suis. Six out of nine divergent isolates possessed a S. suis-like capsule region with variation in capsular gene sequences but the remaining three did not have a discrete capsule locus. The majority (40/70), of virulence-associated genes in normal S. suis were present in the divergent genomes. Overall, the divergent isolates extend the current diversity of S. suis species but the phenotypic similarities and the large amount of gene exchange with normal S. suis gives insufficient evidence to assign these isolates to a new species or subspecies. Further, sampling and whole genome analysis of more isolates is warranted to understand the diversity of the species.
Keywords: MLST; Streptococcus suis; capsule; divergent; genome; phylogeny; recombination; virulence.