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Identification of Universally Applicable and Species-Specific Marker Peptides for Bacillus anthracis

Anthrax is a zoonotic infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis (BA). Specific identification of this pathogen often relies on targeting genes located on two extrachromosomal plasmids, which represent the major pathogenicity factors of BA. However, more recent findings show that these plasmids have also been found in other closely related Bacillus species. In this study, we investigated the possibility of identifying species-specific and universally applicable marker peptides for BA. For this purpose, we applied a high-resolution mass spectrometry-based approach for 42 BA isolates. Along with the genomic sequencing data and by developing a bioinformatics data evaluation pipeline, which uses a database containing most of the publicly available protein sequences worldwide (UniParc), we were able to identify eleven universal marker peptides unique to BA. These markers are located on the chromosome and therefore, might overcome known problems, such as observable loss of plasmids in environmental species, plasmid loss during cultivation in the lab, and the fact that the virulence plasmids are not necessarily a unique feature of BA. The identified chromosomally encoded markers in this study could extend the small panel of already existing chromosomal targets and along with targets for the virulence plasmids, may pave the way to an even more reliable identification of BA using genomics- as well as proteomics-based techniques.



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