We developed a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme and used it to study the population structure and evolutionary relationships of three pathogenic Yersinia species. MLST of these three Yersinia species showed a complex of two clusters, one composed of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Yersinia pestis and the other composed of Yersinia enterocolitica. Within the first cluster, the predominant Y. pestis sequence type 90 (ST90) was linked to Y. pseudotuberculosis ST43 by one locus difference, and 81.25% of the ST43 strains were from serotype O:1b, supporting the hypothesis that Y. pestis descended from the O:1b serotype of Y. pseudotuberculosis. We also found that the worldwide-prevalent serotypes O:1a, O:1b, and O:3 were predominated by specific STs. The second cluster consisted of pathogenic and nonpathogenic Y. enterocolitica strains, two of which may not have identical STs. The pathogenic Y. enterocolitica strains formed a relatively conserved group; most strains clustered within ST186 and ST187. Serotypes O:3, O:8, and O:9 were separated into three distinct blocks. Nonpathogenic Y. enterocolitica STs were more heterogeneous, reflecting genetic diversity through evolution. By providing a better and effective MLST procedure for use with the Yersinia community, valuable information and insights into the genetic evolutionary differences of these pathogens were obtained.
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