AbstractEmerging bacterial pathogens threaten global health and food security, and so it is important to ask whether these transitions to pathogenicity have any common features. We present a systematic study of the claim that pathogenicity is associated with genome reduction and gene loss. We compare broad-scale patterns across all bacteria, with detailed analyses of Streptococcus suis, a zoonotic pathogen of pigs, which has undergone multiple transitions between disease and carriage forms. We find that pathogenicity is consistently associated with reduced genome size across three scales of divergence (between species within genera, and between and within genetic clusters of S. suis). While genome reduction is most often associated with bacterial endosymbionts, other correlates of symbiosis (reduced metabolic capacity, GC content, and the expansion of non-coding elements) are not found consistently in pathogens, and genome reduction in pathogens cannot be attributed to changes in intracellularity or host restriction. Together, our results indicate that genome reduction is a predictive marker of pathogenicity in bacteria, and that the causes and consequences of genome reduction in pathogens are sometimes distinct from those in endosymbionts.

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