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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Jan;4(1):11-22.

Meningococcal genome dynamics.

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  • 1Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience and Institute of Microbiology, University of Oslo, Rikshospitalet, N-0027 Oslo, Norway.


Neisseria meningitidis (the meningococcus) is an important commensal, pathogen and model organism that faces up to the environment in its exclusive human host with a small but hyperdynamic genome. Compared with Escherichia coli, several DNA-repair genes are absent in N. meningitidis, whereas the gene products of others interact differently. Instead of responding to external stimuli, the meningococcus spontaneously produces a plethora of genetic variants. The frequent genomic alterations and polymorphisms have profound consequences for the interaction of this microorganism with its host, impacting structural and antigenic changes in crucial surface components that are relevant for adherence and invasion as well as antibiotic resistance and vaccine development.

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