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Gene. 1999 Jun 11;233(1-2):151-61.

Are horizontal transfers involved in the evolution of the Streptococcus thermophilus exopolysaccharide synthesis loci?

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  • 1Laboratoire de Génétique et Microbiologie, UA INRA 952, Université Henri Poincaré Nancy I, Faculté des Sciences, BP 239, 54506, Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France.


A 32.5kb variable locus of the Streptococcus thermophilus CNRZ368 chromosome, the eps locus, contains 25 ORF and seven insertion sequences (IS). The putative products of 17 ORF are related to proteins involved in the synthesis of polysaccharides in various bacteria. The two distal regions and a small central region of the eps locus are constant and present in all or almost all of the S. thermophilus strains tested. The other regions are variable and present in only some S. thermophilus strains tested, particularly in the closely related strains CNRZ368 and A054. A 13.6kb variable region of the eps locus of S. thermophilus CNRZ368 contains two ORF that are almost identical to epsL and orfY of the eps locus of Lactococcus lactis NIZOB40 and seven IS belonging to four different families, ISS1, IS981, IS1193 and IS1194. Five of these sequences were probably acquired by horizontal transfer from L. lactis (Bourgoin, F., et al., 1996. Gene 178, 15-23). Three probes of this 13.6kb region hybridized with the DNA of several L. lactis strains tested. A specific probe for another sequence within the S. thermophilus eps locus, epsF, hybridized with the DNA of one of the L. lactis strains tested. Sequence comparisons also suggest that five ORF of the eps locus have a mosaic structure and probably result from recombinations between sequences that are 10 to 50% divergent. The chimeric structure of the eps locus suggests a very complex evolution. This evolution probably involves both the acquisition of the 13.6kb region from L. lactis by horizontal transfer and exchanges within the S. thermophilus species.

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