Pathogenicity Island 1 (SPI-1) encodes a type three secretion system (T3SS), effector proteins, and associated transcription factors that together enable invasion of epithelial cells in animal intestines. The horizontal acquisition of SPI-1 by the common ancestor of all Salmonella
is considered a prime example of how gene islands potentiate the emergence of new pathogens with expanded niche ranges. However, the evolutionary history of SPI-1 has attracted little attention. Here, we apply phylogenetic comparisons across the family Enterobacteriaceae to examine the history of SPI-1, improving the resolution of its boundaries and unique architecture by identifying its composite gene modules. SPI-1 is located between the core genes fhlA
, a hotspot for the gain and loss of horizontally acquired genes. Despite the plasticity of this locus, SPI-1 demonstrates stable residency of many tens of millions of years in a host genome, unlike short-lived homologous T3SS and effector islands including Escherichia
SSR2, and Chromobacterium
CPI-1. SPI-1 employs a unique series of regulatory switches, starting with the dedicated transcription factors HilC and HilD, and flowing through the central SPI-1 regulator HilA. HilA is shared with other T3SS, but HilC and HilD may have their evolutionary origins in Salmonella
. The hilA
, and hilD
gene promoters are the most AT-rich DNA in SPI-1, placing them under tight control by the transcriptional repressor H-NS. In all Salmonella
lineages, these three promoters resist amelioration towards the genomic average, ensuring strong repression by H-NS. Hence, early development of a robust and well-integrated regulatory network may explain the evolutionary stability of SPI-1 compared to T3SS gene islands in other species.
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