Type E botulinum toxin (BoNT/E)-producing Clostridium butyricum strains isolated from botulism cases or soil specimens in Italy and China were analyzed by using nucleotide sequencing of the bont/E gene, random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) assay, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and Southern blot hybridization for the bont/E gene. Nucleotide sequences of the bont/E genes of 11 Chinese isolates and of the Italian strain BL 6340 were determined. The nucleotide sequences of the bont/E genes of 11 C. butyricum isolates from China were identical. The deduced amino acid sequence of BoNT/E from the Chinese isolates showed 95.0 and 96.9% identity with those of BoNT/E from C. butyricum BL 6340 and Clostridium botulinum type E, respectively. The BoNT/E-producing C. butyricum strains were divided into the following three clusters based on the results of RAPD assay, PFGE profiles of genomic DNA digested with SmaI or XhoI, and Southern blot hybridization: strains associated with infant botulism in Italy, strains associated with food-borne botulism in China, and isolates from soil specimens of the Weishan lake area in China. A DNA probe for the bont/E gene hybridized with the nondigested chromosomal DNA of all toxigenic strains tested, indicating chromosomal localization of the bont/E gene in C. butyricum. The present results suggest that BoNT/E-producing C. butyricum is clonally distributed over a vast area.
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