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Infect Immun. 1999 Jun;67(6):2700-12.

Molecular characterization of a Brucella species large DNA fragment deleted in Brucella abortus strains: evidence for a locus involved in the synthesis of a polysaccharide.

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Departamento de Microbiología y Genética, Edificio Departamental, Universidad de Salamanca, 37007 Salamanca, Spain.


A Brucella melitensis 16M DNA fragment of 17,119 bp, which contains a large region deleted in B. abortus strains and DNA flanking one side of the deletion, has been characterized. In addition to the previously identified omp31 gene, 14 hypothetical genes have been identified in the B. melitensis fragment, most of them showing homology to genes involved in the synthesis of a polysaccharide. Considering that 10 of the 15 genes are missing in B. abortus and that all the polysaccharides described in the Brucella genus (lipopolysaccharide, native hapten, and polysaccharide B) have been detected in all the species, it seems likely that the genes described here might be part of a cluster for the synthesis of a novel Brucella polysaccharide. Several polysaccharides have been identified as important virulence factors, and the discovery of a novel polysaccharide in the brucellae which is probably 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 described in this paper no longer encode the synthesis of a polysaccharide cannot be excluded. Brucellae belong to the alpha-2 subdivision of the class Proteobacteria, which includes other microorganisms living in association with eucaryotic cells, some of them synthesizing extracellular polysaccharides involved in the interaction with the host cell. The genes described in this paper might be a remnant of the common ancestor of the alpha-2 subdivision of the class Proteobacteria, and the brucellae might have lost such extracellular polysaccharide during evolution if it was not necessary for survival or for establishment of the infectious process. Nevertheless, further studies are necessary to identify the entire DNA fragment missing in B. abortus strains and to elucidate the mechanism responsible for such deletion, since only 9,948 bp of the deletion was present in the sequenced B. melitensis DNA fragment.

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