Taxonomy of Yersinia pestis

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016:918:35-78. doi: 10.1007/978-94-024-0890-4_3.


This chapter summarized the taxonomy and typing works of Yersinia pestis since it's firstly identified in Hong Kong in 1894. Phenotyping methods that based on phenotypic characteristics, including biotyping, serotyping, antibiogram analysis, bacteriocin typing, phage typing, and plasmid typing, were firstly applied in classification of Y. pestis in subspecies level. And then, with the advancement of molecular biological technology, the methods based on outer membrane protein profiles, fatty acid composition, and bacterial mass fingerprinting were also used to identify the populations within Y. pestis. However, Y. pestis is a highly homogenous species; therefore, the above typing methods could only provide low resolution, e.g., only one serotype and one phage type were observed for the whole species. Since the 1990s, molecular typing based on DNA variations, including single-nucleotide polymorphism, gene gain/loss, variable-number tandem repeats, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat, etc., was introduced and improved the resolution and robust of typing result. Especially in recent years, genotyping-based whole-genome-wide variations were successfully employed in Y. pestis, which built the "gold standard" of typing scheme of the species and could distinguish the samples under the strain level. The taxonomy and typing works leaved us enormous polymorphism data; therefore, a comprehensive fingerprint database of Y. pestis was needed to collect and standardize these data, for facilitating future works on evolution, plague surveillance and control, anti-bioterrorism, and microbial forensic researches.

Keywords: Genotyping; Molecular typing; Phenotyping; Population diversity; Taxonomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genotype
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Humans
  • Molecular Typing
  • Phenotype
  • Plague / microbiology*
  • Yersinia pestis / classification*
  • Yersinia pestis / genetics