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Infect Immun. 2009 Nov;77(11):4905-11. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00747-09. Epub 2009 Sep 8.

The Mycoplasma pneumoniae MPN490 and Mycoplasma genitalium MG339 genes encode reca homologs that promote homologous DNA strand exchange.

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  • 1Erasmus MC-Sophia Children's Hospital, Laboratory of Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunity, P.O. Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


The P1, P40, and P90 proteins of Mycoplasma pneumoniae and the MgPa and P110 proteins of Mycoplasma genitalium are immunogenic adhesion proteins that display sequence variation. Consequently, these proteins are thought to play eminent roles in immune evasive strategies. For each of the five proteins, a similar underlying molecular mechanism for sequence variation was hypothesized, i.e., modification of the DNA sequences of their respective genes. This modification is thought to result from homologous recombination of parts of these genes with repeat elements (RepMp and MgPar elements in M. pneumoniae and M. genitalium, respectively) that are dispersed throughout the bacterial genome. Proteins that are potentially involved in homologous DNA recombination have been suggested to be implicated in recombination between these repeat elements and thereby in antigenic variation. To investigate this notion, we set out to study the function of the RecA homologs that are encoded by the M. pneumoniae MPN490 and M. genitalium MG339 genes. Both proteins, which are 79% identical on the amino acid level, were found to promote recombination between homologous DNA substrates in an ATP-dependent fashion. The recombinational activities of both proteins were Mg2+ and pH dependent and were strongly supported by the presence of single-stranded DNA binding protein, either from M. pneumoniae or from Escherichia coli. We conclude that the MPN490- and MG339-encoded proteins are RecA homologs that have the capacity to recombine homologous DNA substrates. Thus, they may play a central role in recombination between repetitive elements in both M. pneumoniae and M. genitalium.

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