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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 Nov; 86(22): 8988–8992.
PMCID: PMC298417

Recruitment of a penicillin-binding protein gene from Neisseria flavescens during the emergence of penicillin resistance in Neisseria meningitidis.


Non-beta-lactamase-producing, penicillin-resistant strains of Neisseria meningitidis produce altered forms of penicillin-binding protein 2 that have decreased affinity for penicillin. The sequence of the penicillin-binding protein 2 gene (penA) from a penicillin-resistant strain of N. meningitidis was compared to the sequence of the same gene from penicillin-sensitive strains and from penicillin-sensitive and penicillin-resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The penA genes from penicillin-sensitive strains of N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis were 98% identical. The gene from the penicillin-resistant strain of N. meningitidis consisted of regions that were almost identical to the corresponding regions in the penicillin-sensitive strains (less than 0.2% divergence) and two regions that were very different from them (approximately 22% divergence). The two blocks of altered sequence have arisen by the replacement of meningococcal sequences with the corresponding regions from the penA gene of Neisseria flavescens and result in an altered form of penicillin-binding protein 2 that contains 44 amino acid substitutions and 1 amino acid insertion compared to penicillin-binding protein 2 of penicillin-sensitive strains of N. meningitidis. A similar introduction of part of the penA gene of N. flavescens, or a very similar commensal Neisseria species, appears to have occurred independently during the development of altered penA genes in non-beta-lactamase-producing penicillin-resistant strains of N. gonorrhoeae.

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