Background: Vibrios are among the most diverse and ecologically important marine bacteria, which have evolved many characteristics and lifestyles to occupy various niches. The relationship between genome features and environmental adaptation strategies is an essential part for understanding the ecological functions of vibrios in the marine system. The advent of complete genome sequencing technology has provided an important method of examining the genetic characteristics of vibrios on the genomic level.
Results: Two Vibrio genomes were sequenced and found to occupy many unique orthologues families which absent from the previously genes pool of the complete genomes of vibrios. Comparative genomics analysis found vibrios encompass a steady core-genome and tremendous pan-genome with substantial gene gain and horizontal gene transfer events in the evolutionary history. Evolutionary analysis based on the core-genome tree suggested that V. fischeri emerged ~ 385 million years ago, along with the occurrence of cephalopods and the flourish of fish. The relatively large genomes, the high number of 16S rRNA gene copies, and the presence of R-M systems and CRISPR system help vibrios live in various marine environments. Chitin-degrading related genes are carried in nearly all the Vibrio genomes. The number of chitinase genes in vibrios has been extremely expanded compared to which in the most recent ancestor of the genus. The chitinase A genes were estimated to have evolved along with the genus, and have undergone significant purifying selective force to conserve the ancestral state.
Conclusions: Vibrios have experienced extremely genome expansion events during their evolutionary history, allowing them to develop various functions to spread globally. Despite their close phylogenetic relationships, vibrios were found to have a tremendous pan-genome with a steady core-genome, which indicates the highly plastic genome of the genus. Additionally, the existence of various chitin-degrading related genes and the expansion of chitinase A in the genus demonstrate the importance of the chitin utilization for vibrios. Defensive systems in the Vibrio genomes may protect them from the invasion of external DNA. These genomic features investigated here provide a better knowledge of how the evolutionary process has forged Vibrio genomes to occupy various niches.
Keywords: Chitinase; Comparative genomics; Environmental adaptation; Gene gain/loss; Phylogeny; Vibrio.