Yersinia pestis, a gram-negative bacterium, is the causative agent of plague. Y. pestis is a zoonotic pathogen that occasionally infects humans, and is endemic in the western United States. History gives evidence of three main plague pandemics. The first, originating in Egypt in 541AD, is known as the Justinian plague. The second, perhaps most well-known, is thought to have emerged in 1347AD in China, and is called the Black Death. The third, and current plague pandemic, also emerged in China in 1855. In 1899, Y. pestis was established in California, and the plague in other parts of America evolved from this initial introduction. In order to understand evolutionary patterns, we sequenced and analyzed 22 novel Y. pestis genomes from New Mexico. Performing a multiple genome alignment was the first step of our computational pipeline, after which evolutionary patterns were elucidated. Results from this study include predictions of four genes under negative selection pressure. Three of these genes were located on the Y. pestis chromosome, the fourth on the pCD1 virulence plasmid. This study also revealed 42 sites displaying statistically significant skew in the observed residue distribution when comparing sequences based on the year of isolation, and nine significant sites when comparing sequences based on the host species. Phylogenetic tree reconstruction showed a monophyletic pattern for sequences collected in the United States. Taken together, these analyses shed light on the evolutionary history of this pathogen in the southwestern US over a focused time range.



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Life Sciences; Microbiology and Molecular Biology



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Yersinia pestis, plague, evolution, Bayesian phylogenetics, whole genome comparison



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Life Sciences Commons