Molecular investigations on a chimeric strain of Staphylococcus aureus sequence type 80 : [Preprint]
Abstract An Eritrean patient was admitted with suspected tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis. While no mycobacteria were detected in pus from this process, culture yielded PVL-positive, methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus . Microarray hybridisation assigned the isolate to clonal complex (CC) 80 but revealed unusual features, including the presence of the ORF-CM14 enterotoxin homologue and of an ACME-III element as well as the absence of etD and edinB. The isolate was subjected to both, Illumina and Nanopore sequencing allowing characterisation of deviating regions within the strain’s genome. Atypical features of this strain were attributable to the presence of two genomic regions that originated from other S. aureus lineages and that comprised, respectively, 3% and 1.4% of the genome. One deviating region extended from walJ to sirB . It comprised ORF-CM14 and the ACME-III element. A homologous, but larger fragment was also found in an atypical S. aureus CC1/ST567 strain whose lineage might have served as donor of this genomic region. This region itself is a chimera comprising fragments from CC1 as well as fragments of unknown origin. The other region of another 3% of the genome comprised the region from htsB to ecfA2 . It was very similar to CC1 sequences. This suggests either an incorporation of CC1 DNA into the study strain, or it might alternatively suggest a recombination event affecting “canonical” CC80. As the study strain bears witness of several recombination events, such complex and large-scale events cannot be rare and exceptional, despite a mainly clonal nature of S. aureus . Although the exact mechanism is not yet clear, chimerism seems to be an additional pathway in the evolution of S. aureus , possibly being responsible for the transmission also of virulence and resistance factors. An organism that can shuffle, swap or exchange major parts of its genome by a yet unknown mechanism would have an evolutionary advantage compared to a strictly clonal organism.