Comparative genome analysis and identification of competitive and cooperative interactions in a polymicrobial disease

Akiko Endo, Takayasu Watanabe, Nachiko Ogata, Takashi Nozawa, Chihiro Aikawa, Shinichi Arakawa, Fumito Maruyama, Yuichi Izumi, Ichiro Nakagawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Polymicrobial diseases are caused by combinations of multiple bacteria, which can lead to not only mild but also life-threatening illnesses. Periodontitis represents a polymicrobial disease; Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola and Tannerella forsythia, called 'the red complex', have been recognized as the causative agents of periodontitis. Although molecular interactions among the three species could be responsible for progression of periodontitis, the relevant genetic mechanisms are unknown. In this study, we uncovered novel interactions in comparative genome analysis among the red complex species. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) of T. forsythia might attack the restriction modification system of P. Gingivalis, and possibly work as a defense system against DNA invasion from P. Gingivalis. On the other hand, gene deficiencies were mutually compensated in metabolic pathways when the genes of all the three species were taken into account, suggesting that there are cooperative relationships among the three species. This notion was supported by the observation that each of the three species had its own virulence factors, which might facilitate persistence and manifestations of virulence of the three species. Here, we propose new mechanisms of bacterial symbiosis in periodontitis; these mechanisms consist of competitive and cooperative interactions. Our results might shed light on the pathogenesis of periodontitis and of other polymicrobial diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-642
Number of pages14
JournalISME Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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