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J Clin Microbiol. 1991 Jul;29(7):1339-43.

Identification of verotoxin type 2 variant B subunit genes in Escherichia coli by the polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis.

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  • 1National Laboratory for Special Pathogens, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


A set of synthetic oligonucleotide primers was designed for use in a polymerase chain reaction protocol to specifically detect the B subunit genes in vtx2ha and vtx2hb, which code for the production of the VT2 (Shiga-like toxin II) variant cytotoxins VT2v-a and VT2v-b, respectively. An additional set of primers amplified a fragment common to the B subunits of the VT2 and the VT2 variant genes. Subsequent restriction endonuclease digestion of this amplicon permitted prediction of specific VT2 and variant genotypes on the basis of predetermined restriction fragment length polymorphisms. Genotypes of 21 VT2-producing strains of Escherichia coli were determined using this polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism procedure. Four strains contained B subunit target sequences only for VT2 genes, 9 strains contained sequences only for VT2v-a genes, and 3 strains contained sequences only for VT2v-b. For genes in combination, one strain contained B subunit genes for both VT2 and VT2v-a and two strains contained B subunit genes for VT2 and VT2v-b. Two strains of E. coli O91:H21 contained both VT2v-a and VT2v-b B subunit genes. The VT2 reference strain of E. coli, E32511, was found to contain the targeted sequences from both VT2 and VT2v-a genes, whereas the recombinant E. coli, pEB1, possessed only that of the VT2 gene. The specific activities of extracellular VT2 determined in HeLa cells ranged from 0.3 to 41.7 TCD50 per microgram of protein in strains carrying the VT2 gene target and from 0 to 50.0 TCD50 per microgram of protein in strains carrying only the VT2 variant target (TCD50 is the tissue culture dose by which 50% of the cells were affected), suggesting that phenotypic expression does not correlate with genotype.

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