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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Aug;41(4):925-35.

Horizontal gene transfer and host specificity of beta-haemolytic streptococci: the role of a putative composite transposon containing scpB and lmb.

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  • 1Institute of Medical Microbiology and National Reference Center for Streptococci, University Hospital Aachen, Pauwelsstr. 30, 52057 Aachen, Germany.


Beta-haemolytic streptococci are important human and animal pathogens: their genetic traits that are associated with the ability to infect human hosts remain, however, unclear. The surface protein, Lmb, mediates the adherence of Streptococcus agalactiae to human laminin. For further analysis of the corresponding gene, the adjacent genomic regions were sequenced. Lmb is localized on a putative composite transposon of 16 kb and is flanked by two copies of a novel insertion sequence element (ISSag2). It harbours the genes scpB and lmb, which are 98% identical with the respective genes of Streptococcus pyogenes. Analysis of the distribution of these genes and ISSag2 among 131 streptococcal strains revealed that all of the human isolates, but only 20% (12 of 61) of the animal isolates, contained scpB and lmb or their homologues. To investigate if the putative transposon can be mobilized, an erythromycin resistance marker was incorporated into the lmb gene of S. agalactiae. Screening for mutant strains with a regained susceptibility for erythromycin identified strains with a deletion of scpB, lmb, and one copy of ISSag2. We hypothesize that a horizontal gene transfer caused the exchange of scpB and lmb and that the ability of S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae and group C and G streptococcal strains to colonize or infect human hosts is dependent on their presence.

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