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Coxiella burnetii (Cb) is an obligate intracellular pathogen in nature and the causative agent of acute Q fever as well as chronic diseases. In an effort to identify genes and proteins crucial to their normal intracellular growth lifestyle, we applied a "Reverse evolution" approach where the avirulent Nine Mile Phase II strain of Cb was grown for 67 passages in chemically defined ACCM-D media and gene expression patterns and genome integrity from various passages was compared to passage number one following intracellular growth. Transcriptomic analysis identified a marked downregulation of the structural components of the type 4B secretion system (T4BSS), the general secretory (sec) pathway, as well as 14 out of 118 previously identified genes encoding effector proteins. Additional downregulated pathogenicity determinants genes included several chaperones, LPS, and peptidoglycan biosynthesis. A general marked downregulation of central metabolic pathways was also observed, which was balanced by a marked upregulation of genes encoding transporters. This pattern reflected the richness of the media and diminishing anabolic and ATP-generation needs. Finally, genomic sequencing and comparative genomic analysis demonstrated an extremely low level of mutation across passages, despite the observed Cb gene expression changes following acclimation to axenic media.

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This preprint was published on bioRxiv at

Copyright © 2023 the author/funder. CC BY-NC 4.0.

Final version was published in Pathogens and Disease, Volume 81. The published version is available at

Published article copyright © 2023 The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of FEMS.