Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) was the first pathovar of E. coli to be implicated in human disease; however, no EPEC strain has been fully sequenced until now. Strain E2348/69 (serotype O127:H6 belonging to E. coli phylogroup B2) has been used worldwide as a prototype strain to study EPEC biology, genetics, and virulence. Studies of E2348/69 led to the discovery of the locus of enterocyte effacement-encoded type III secretion system (T3SS) and its cognate effectors, which play a vital role in attaching and effacing lesion formation on gut epithelial cells. In this study, we determined the complete genomic sequence of E2348/69 and performed genomic comparisons with other important E. coli strains. We identified 424 E2348/69-specific genes, most of which are carried on mobile genetic elements, and a number of genetic traits specifically conserved in phylogroup B2 strains irrespective of their pathotypes, including the absence of the ETT2-related T3SS, which is present in E. coli strains belonging to all other phylogroups. The genome analysis revealed the entire gene repertoire related to E2348/69 virulence. Interestingly, E2348/69 contains only 21 intact T3SS effector genes, all of which are carried on prophages and integrative elements, compared to over 50 effector genes in enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157. As E2348/69 is the most-studied pathogenic E. coli strain, this study provides a genomic context for the vast amount of existing experimental data. The unexpected simplicity of the E2348/69 T3SS provides the first opportunity to fully dissect the entire virulence strategy of attaching and effacing pathogens in the genomic context.
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