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Insights from genome-wide approaches to identify variants associated to phenotypes at pan-genome scale: Application to L. monocytogenes' ability to grow in cold conditions

Fritsch, Lena, Felten, Arnaud, Palma, Federica, Mariet, Jean-François, Radomski, Nicolas, Mistou, Michel-Yves, Augustin, Jean-Christophe, Guillier, Laurent
International journal of food microbiology 2019 v.291 pp. 181-188
Bayesian theory, bioinformatics, cold, data collection, exposure assessment, food matrix, food pathogens, genes, genome-wide association study, genotype, hazard identification, intergenic DNA, interspersed repetitive sequences, intraspecific variation, microbiological risk assessment, phenotype, phenotypic variation, phylogeny, prediction, proteins, sequence analysis, serotypes, single nucleotide polymorphism, temperature
Intraspecific variability of the behavior of most foodborne pathogens is well described and taken into account in Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA), but factors (strain origin, serotype, …) explaining these differences are scarce or contradictory between studies. Nowadays, Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) offers new opportunities to explain intraspecific variability of food pathogens, based on various recently published bioinformatics tools.The objective of this study is to get a better insight into different existing bioinformatics approaches to associate bacterial phenotype(s) and genotype(s). Therefore, a dataset of 51 L. monocytogenes strains, isolated from multiple sources (i.e. different food matrices and environments) and belonging to 17 clonal complexes (CC), were selected to represent large population diversity. Furthermore, the phenotypic variability of growth at low temperature was determined (i.e. qualitative phenotype), and the whole genomes of selected strains were sequenced. The almost exhaustive gene content, as well as the core genome SNPs based phylogenetic reconstruction, were derived from the whole sequenced genomes. A Bayesian inference method was applied to identify the branches on which the phenotype distribution evolves within sub-lineages. Two different Genome Wide Association Studies (i.e. gene- and SNP-based GWAS) were independently performed in order to link genetic mutations to the phenotype of interest.The genomic analyses presented in this study were successfully applied on the selected dataset. The Bayesian phylogenetic approach emphasized an association with “slow” growth ability at 2 °C of the lineage I, as well as CC9 of the lineage II. Moreover, both gene- and SNP-GWAS approaches displayed significant statistical associations with the tested phenotype. A list of 114 significantly associated genes, including genes already known to be involved in the cold adaption mechanism of L. monocytogenes and genes associated to mobile genetic elements (MGE), resulted from the gene-GWAS. On the other hand, a group of 184 highly associated SNPs were highlighted by SNP-GWAS, including SNPs detected in genes which were already likely involved in cold adaption; hypothetical proteins; and intergenic regions where for example promotors and regulators can be located.The successful application of combined bioinformatics approaches associating WGS-genotypes and specific phenotypes, could contribute to improve prediction of microbial behaviors in food. The implementation of this information in hazard identification and exposure assessment processes will open new possibilities to feed QMRA-models.