The genome sequence of Rickettsia felis identifies the first putative conjugative plasmid in an obligate intracellular parasite.
We sequenced the genome of Rickettsia felis, a flea-associated obligate intracellular alpha-proteobacterium causing spotted fever in humans. Besides a circular chromosome of 1,485,148 bp, R. felis exhibits the first putative conjugative plasmid identified among obligate intracellular bacteria. This plasmid is found in a short (39,263 bp) and a long (62,829 bp) form. R. felis contrasts with previously sequenced Rickettsia in terms of many other features, including a number of transposases, several chromosomal toxin-antitoxin genes, many more spoT genes, and a very large number of ankyrin- and tetratricopeptide-motif-containing genes. Host-invasion-related genes for patatin and RickA were found. Several phenotypes predicted from genome analysis were experimentally tested: conjugative pili and mating were observed, as well as beta-lactamase activity, actin-polymerization-driven mobility, and hemolytic properties. Our study demonstrates that complete genome sequencing is the fastest approach to reveal phenotypic characters of recently cultured obligate intracellular bacteria.