Image_2_Comparative Analysis of the Two Acinetobacter baumannii Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST) Schemes.jpg
Acinetobacter species assigned to the Acinetobacter calcoaceticus-baumannii (Acb) complex, are Gram-negative bacteria responsible for a large number of human infections. The population structure of Acb has been studied using two 7-gene MLST schemes, introduced by Bartual and coworkers (Oxford scheme) and by Diancourt and coworkers (Pasteur scheme). The schemes have three genes in common but underlie two coexisting nomenclatures of sequence types and clonal complexes, which complicates communication on A. baumannii genotypes. The aim of this study was to compare the characteristics of the two schemes to make a recommendation about their usage. Using genome sequences of 730 strains of the Acb complex, we evaluated the phylogenetic congruence of MLST schemes, the correspondence between sequence types, their discriminative power and genotyping reliability from genomic sequences. In silico ST re-assignments highlighted the presence of a second copy of the Oxford gdhB locus, present in 553/730 genomes that has led to the creation of artefactual profiles and STs. The reliability of the two MLST schemes was tested statistically comparing MLST-based phylogenies to two reference phylogenies (core-genome genes and genome-wide SNPs) using topology-based and likelihood-based tests. Additionally, each MLST gene fragment was evaluated by correlating the pairwise nucleotide distances between each pair of genomes calculated on the core-genome and on each single gene fragment. The Pasteur scheme appears to be less discriminant among closely related isolates, but less affected by homologous recombination and more appropriate for precise strain classification in clonal groups, which within this scheme are more often correctly monophyletic. Statistical tests evaluate the tree deriving from the Oxford scheme as more similar to the reference genome trees. Our results, together with previous work, indicate that the Oxford scheme has important issues: gdhB paralogy, recombination, primers sequences, position of the genes on the genome. While there is no complete agreement in all analyses, when considered as a whole the above results indicate that the Pasteur scheme is more appropriate for population biology and epidemiological studies of A. baumannii and related species and we propose that it should be the scheme of choice during the transition toward, and in parallel with, core genome MLST.