Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacteria with highly reduced genomes, reflective of their abilities to sequester nutrients from the host. The host range of this phylum far exceeds that described for the Chlamydia genus which encompasses terrestrial animals; however, much of this diversity is uncultivated. Of particular evolutionary significance are members of the earliest diverging family, Candidatus Parilichlamydiaceae, comprising only uncultivated species associated with the fish gill disease, epitheliocystis. Epitheliocystis poses a significant threat to aquaculture industries globally. Due to the lack of culture systems for Ca. Parilichlamydiaceae, little is known about their biology, which also imposes further limitations on answering epidemiological questions. Gill extracts from three Chlamydiales-positive Australian aquaculture species were subject to DNA preparation to deplete host DNA and enrich microbial DNA, prior to metagenome sequencing. We obtained three metagenome-assembled Ca. Parilichlamydiaceae genomes from three different host species, and conducted functional genomics comparisons with diverse members of the phylum. Using these genomes, we developed a novel Ca. Parilichlamydia carangidicola-specific multi locus sequence analysis (MLSA) scheme to investigate genetic diversity in this species Genomic analysis revealed highly reduced genomes (∼0.8 Mbp) that share 342 orthologs with other chlamydial families, with a notable reduction in genes for synthesis of nucleotides and amino acids. MLSA revealed a high level of genetic diversity of Ca. P. carangidicola, with 20 genotypes distributed among 29 samples from four populations within the same aquaculture facility. Culture-independent genomics has provided an unprecedented insight into chlamydial evolution, pathogenicity and epidemiology. This approach could be adapted for further genomic epidemiological investigations.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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