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Infect Immun. 2001 Nov;69(11):6738-48.

Characterization of a Brucella species 25-kilobase DNA fragment deleted from Brucella abortus reveals a large gene cluster related to the synthesis of a polysaccharide.

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  • 1Departamento de Microbiología y Genética, Universidad de Salamanca, 37007 Salamanca, Spain.


In the present study we completed the nucleotide sequence of a Brucella melitensis 16M DNA fragment deleted from B. abortus that accounts for 25,064 bp and show that the other Brucella spp. contain the entire 25-kb DNA fragment. Two short direct repeats of four nucleotides, detected in the B. melitensis 16M DNA flanking both sides of the fragment deleted from B. abortus, might have been involved in the deletion formation by a strand slippage mechanism during replication. In addition to omp31, coding for an immunogenic protein located in the Brucella outer membrane, 22 hypothetical genes were identified. Most of the proteins that would be encoded by these genes show significant homology with proteins involved in the biosynthesis of polysaccharides from other bacteria, suggesting that they might be involved in the synthesis of a Brucella polysaccharide that would be a heteropolymer synthesized by a Wzy-dependent pathway. This polysaccharide would not be synthesized in B. abortus and would be a polysaccharide not identified until present in the genus Brucella, since all of the known polysaccharides are synthesized in all smooth Brucella species. Discovery of a novel polysaccharide not synthesized in B. abortus might be interesting for a better understanding of the pathogenicity and host preference differences observed between the Brucella species. However, the possibility that the genes detected in the DNA fragment deleted in B. abortus no longer lead to the synthesis of a polysaccharide must not be excluded. They might be a remnant of the common ancestor of the alpha-2 subdivision of the class Proteobacteria, with some of its members synthesizing extracellular polysaccharides and, as Brucella spp., living in association with eukaryotic cells.

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