Analysis of the type 1 pilin gene cluster fim in Salmonella: its distinct evolutionary histories in the 5' and 3' regions

Date Published:



The type 1 pilin encoded by fim is present in both Escherichia coli and Salmonella natural isolates, but several lines of evidence indicate that similarities at the fim locus may be an example of independent acquisition rather than common ancestry. For example, the fim gene cluster is found at different chromosomal locations and with distinct gene orders in these closely related species. In this work we examined the fim gene cluster of Salmonella, the genes of which show high nucleotide sequence divergence from their E. coli counterparts, as well as a different G+C content and codon usage. DNA hybridization analysis revealed that, among the salmonellae, the fim gene cluster is present in all isolates of S. enterica but is absent from S. bongori. Molecular phylogenetic analyses of the fimA and fimI genes yield an estimate of phylogeny that is in satisfactory congruence with housekeeping and other virulence genes examined in this species. In contrast, phylogenetic analyses of the fimZ, fimY, and fimW genes indicate that horizontal transfer of this region has occurred more than once. There is also size variation in the fimZ, fimY, and fimW intergenic regions in the 3' region, and these genes are absent in isolate S2983 of subspecies IIIa. Interestingly, the G+C contents of the fimZ, fimY, and fimW genes are less than 46%, which is considerably lower than those of the other six genes of the fim cluster. This study demonstrates that horizontal transmission of all or part of the same gene cluster can occur repeatedly, with the result that different regions of a single gene cluster may have different evolutionary histories.


Boyd, E FHartl, D LengComparative StudyResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.1999/02/11J Bacteriol. 1999 Feb;181(4):1301-8.

Last updated on 05/20/2015