Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis (MAH) is an opportunistic human pathogen widespread in the environment. Genomic islands (GI)s represent a part of the accessory genome of bacteria and influence virulence, drug-resistance or fitness and trigger bacterial evolution. We previously identified a novel GI in four MAH genomes. Here, we further explored this GI in a larger collection of MAH isolates from Germany (n=41), including 20 clinical and 21 environmental isolates. Based on comparative whole genome analysis, we detected this GI in 39/41 (95.1%) isolates. Although all these GIs integrated in the same insertion hotspot, there is high variability in the genetic structure of this GI: eight different types of GI have been identified, designated A-H (sized 6.2-73.3kb). These GIs were arranged as single GI (23/41, 56.1%), combination of two different GIs (14/41, 34.1%) or combination of three different GIs (2/41, 4.9%) in the insertion hotspot. Moreover, two GI types shared more than 80% sequence identity with sequences of M. canettii, responsible for Tuberculosis. A total of 253 different genes were identified in all GIs, among which the previously documented virulence-related genes mmpL10 and mce. The diversity of the GI and the sequence similarity with other mycobacteria suggests cross-species transfer, involving also highly pathogenic species. Shuffling of potential virulence genes such as mmpL10 via this GI may create new pathogens that can cause future outbreaks.
Keywords: COG; Clusters of Orthologous Groups; GI; Genomic island; MAH; MCE; MmpL; Mycobacterium avium; Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis; NTM; antibiotic-resistance; genomic islands; horizontal gene transfer; mammalian cell entry; mmpL; mycobacterial membrane protein large; non-tuberculous mycobacteria.
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