The contribution of mobile genetic elements to the evolution and ecology of Vibrios.
Vibrio mimicus differs from Vibrio cholerae in a number of genotypic and phenotypic traits but like V. cholerae can give rise to diarrheal disease. We examined clinical isolates of V. mimicus for the presence of CTXPhi, the lysogenic filamentous bacteriophage that carries the cholera toxin genes in epidemic V. cholerae strains. Four V. mimicus isolates were found to contain complete copies of CTXPhi. Southern blot analyses revealed that V. mimicus strain PT5 contains two CTX prophages integrated at different sites within the V. mimicus genome whereas V. mimicus strains PT48, 523-80, and 9583 each contain tandemly arranged copies of CTXPhi. We detected the replicative form of CTXPhi, pCTX, in all four of these V. mimicus isolates. The CTX prophage in strain PT5 was found to produce infectious CTXPhi particles. The nucleotide sequences of CTXPhi genes orfU and zot from V. mimicus strain PT5 and V. cholerae strain N16961 were identical, indicating contemporary horizontal transfer of CTXPhi between these two species. The receptor for CTXPhi, the toxin-coregulated pilus, which is encoded by another lysogenic filamentous bacteriophage, VPIPhi, was also present in the CTXPhi-positive V. mimicus isolates. The nucleotide sequences of VPIPhi genes aldA and toxT from V. mimicus strain PT5 and V. cholerae N16961 were identical, suggesting recent horizontal transfer of this phage between V. mimicus and V. cholerae. In V. mimicus, the vibrio pathogenicity island prophage was integrated in the same chromosomal attachment site as in V. cholerae. These results suggest that V. mimicus may be a significant reservoir for both CTXPhi and VPIPhi and may play an important role in the emergence of new toxigenic V. cholerae isolates.