Kill and cure: genomic phylogeny and bioactivity of Burkholderia gladioli bacteria capable of pathogenic and beneficial lifestyles

Cerith Jones, Gordon Webster, Alex J. Mullins, Matthew Jenner, Matthew J. Bull, Yousef Dashti, Theodore Spilker, Julian Parkhill, Thomas R. Connor, John J. LiPuma, Gregory L. Challis, Eshwar Mahenthiralingam

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Burkholderia gladioli is a bacterium with a broad ecology spanning disease in humans, animals and plants, but also encompassing multiple beneficial interactions. It is a plant pathogen, a toxin-producing food-poisoning agent, and causes lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF). Contrasting beneficial traits include antifungal production exploited by insects to protect their eggs, plant protective abilities and antibiotic biosynthesis. We explored the genomic diversity and specialized metabolic potential of 206 B. gladioli strains, phylogenomically defining 5 clades. Historical disease pathovars (pv.) B. gladioli pv. allicola and B. gladioli pv. cocovenenans were distinct, while B. gladioli pv. gladioli and B. gladioli pv. agaricicola were indistinguishable; soft-rot disease and CF infection were conserved across all pathovars. Biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) for toxoflavin, caryoynencin and enacyloxin were dispersed across B. gladioli , but bongkrekic acid and gladiolin production were clade-specific. Strikingly, 13 % of CF infection strains characterized were bongkrekic acid-positive, uniquely linking this food-poisoning toxin to this aspect of B. gladioli disease. Mapping the population biology and metabolite production of B. gladioli has shed light on its diverse ecology, and by demonstrating that the antibiotic trimethoprim suppresses bongkrekic acid production, a potential therapeutic strategy to minimize poisoning risk in CF has been identified.
Original languageEnglish
Article number000515
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalMicrobial Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2021


  • Burkholderia
  • B. gladioli
  • antibiotic production
  • plant pathogenesis
  • cystic fibrosis infection
  • phylogenomics


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