Lepp, D., Gong. J., Boerlin, P., Parreira, V. R., Songer, J. G., Prescott, J. F. 2012. Bact. 195:1152-1166.
Necrotic enteritis (NE) is an economically important disease of poultry caused by certain Clostridium perfringens type A strains. NE pathogenesis involves the NetB toxin, which is encoded on a large conjugative plasmid within a 42-kb pathogenicity locus. Recent multilocus sequence type (MLST) studies have identified two predominant NE-associated clonal groups, suggesting that host genes are also involved in NE pathogenesis. We used microarray comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to assess the gene content of 54 poultry isolates from birds that were healthy or that suffered from NE. A total of 400 genes were variably present among the poultry isolates and nine nonpoultry strains, many of which had putative functions related to nutrient uptake and metabolism and cell wall and capsule biosynthesis. The variable genes were organized into 142 genomic regions, 49 of which contained genes significantly associated with netB-positive isolates. These regions included three previously identified NE-associated loci as well as several apparent fitness-related loci, such as a carbohydrate ABC transporter, a ferric-iron siderophore uptake system, and an adhesion locus. Additional loci were related to plasmid maintenance. Cluster analysis of the CGH data grouped all of the netB-positive poultry isolates into two major groups, separated according to two prevalent clonal groups based on MLST analysis. This study identifies chromosomal loci associated with netB-positive poultry strains, suggesting that the chromosomal background can confer a selective advantage to NE-causing strains, possibly through mechanisms involving iron acquisition, carbohydrate metabolism, and plasmid maintenance.