The genome of the medieval Black Death agent

The genome of the medieval Black Death agent (extended abstract)
Ashok Rajaraman, Eric Tannier, Cedric Chauve
(Submitted on 29 Jul 2013)

The genome of a 650 year old Yersinia pestis bacteria, responsible for the medieval Black Death, was recently sequenced and assembled into 2,105 contigs from the main chromosome. According to the point mutation record, the medieval bacteria could be an ancestor of most Yersinia pestis extant species, which opens the way to reconstructing the organization of these contigs using a comparative approach. We show that recent computational paleogenomics methods, aiming at reconstructing the organization of ancestral genomes from the comparison of extant genomes, can be used to correct, order and complete the contig set of the Black Death agent genome, providing a full chromosome sequence, at the nucleotide scale, of this ancient bacteria. This sequence suggests that a burst of mobile elements insertions predated the Black Death, leading to an exceptional genome plasticity and increase in rearrangement rate.

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