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J Bacteriol. Oct 1990; 172(10): 5929–5937.
PMCID: PMC526914

Identification and cloning of a hemin storage locus involved in the pigmentation phenotype of Yersinia pestis.

Abstract

The temperature-dependent absorption of sufficient exogenous hemin or Congo red to form pigmented colonies of Yersinia pestis has been termed the pigmentation phenotype (Pgm+). Spontaneous mutation to a Pgm- phenotype results in the loss of a number of divergent physiological characteristics, including the ability to store hemin and to bind Congo red at 26 degrees C. In this study, we generated and isolated transposon insertion mutants that are hemin storage negative (Hms-) and therefore unable to form pigmented colonies. These mutations are due to single mini-kan insertions within a 19.5-kilobase (kb) SalI fragment of chromosomal DNA. Restriction site analysis of eight mutants identified a minimum of six potentially different insertion sites spanning an approximately 10-kb hemin storage (hms) locus. The 19.5-kb SalI fragment (containing approximately 18 kb of Y. pestis DNA and the mini-kan insert) was cloned from one of these mutants, KIM6-2012. By using this cloned fragment as a DNA probe, the mechanism of spontaneous mutation to a Pgm- phenotype was identified as a massive deletion event. The deletion spans at least 18 kb of genomic DNA in spontaneous Pgm- mutants from nine separate strains of Y. pestis. DNA adjacent to the mini-kan insert was used to identify a clone containing a wild-type hms locus. A spontaneous Pgm- mutant of Y pestis KIM containing this clone exhibits an Hms+ phenotype. The hms::mini-kan mutations and cloned wild-type hms locus generated in this study will greatly aid in identifying the function of hemin storage in Y. pestis.

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