Sequencing a piece of history: complete genome sequence of the original Escherichia coli strain
We recently described a new afimbrial adhesin, AfaE-VIII, produced by animal strains associated with diarrhea and septicemia and by human isolates associated with extraintestinal infections. Here, we report that the afa-8 operon, encoding AfaE-VIII adhesin, from the human blood isolate Escherichia coli AL862 is carried by a 61-kb genomic region with characteristics typical of a pathogenicity island (PAI), including a size larger than 10 kb, the presence of an integrase-encoding gene, the insertion into a tRNA locus (pheR), and the presence of a small direct repeat at each extremity. Moreover, the G+C content of the afa-8 operon (46.4%) is lower than that of the E. coli K-12/MG1655 chromosome (50.8%). Within this PAI, designated PAI I(AL862), we identified open reading frames able to code for products similar to proteins involved in sugar utilization. Four probes spanning these sequences hybridized with 74.3% of pathogenic afa-8-positive E. coli strains isolated from humans and animals, 25% of human pathogenic afa-8-negative E. coli strains, and only 8% of fecal strains (P = 0.05), indicating that these sequences are strongly associated with the afa-8 operon and that this genetic association may define a PAI widely distributed among human and animal afa-8-positive strains. One of the distinctive features of this study is that E. coli AL862 also carries another afa-8-containing PAI (PAI II(AL862)), which appeared to be similar in size and genetic organization to PAI I(AL862) and was inserted into the pheV gene. We investigated the insertion sites of afa-8-containing PAI in human and bovine pathogenic E. coli strains and found that this PAI preferentially inserted into the pheV gene.