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Microbiology. 1999 May;145 ( Pt 5):1005-1014. doi: 10.1099/13500872-145-5-1005.

The large plasmids of Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are highly variable genetic elements.


Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) of different serotypes are known to harbour large plasmids. The aim of this study was to investigate, using the example of the plasmid-encoded serine protease EspP, whether these plasmids are a uniform genetic element present in STEC. Examination of 201 diarrhoeagenic E. coli strains using a newly developed espP-specific PCR showed that espP is specific for STEC and present in 57% of STEC belonging to 16 different serotypes. The espP genes of the 16 STEC serotypes varied to a certain extent, as shown by nucleotide sequence and restriction enzyme analyses, but the DNA regions adjacent to the espP gene were completely different. When two further STEC-plasmid markers, the catalase-peroxidase gene katP and the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli-haemolysin gene EHEC-hlyA were included, many combinations of the three markers were found, depending in part on the serotype. In addition, strains possessing none of the three markers still harboured large plasmids. In the most prevalent STEC serogroup, O157, it was observed that the plasmid of sorbitol-fermenting STEC O157:H- lacks the espP and katP genes although both genes are present in the plasmid of the non-sorbitol-fermenting STEC O157:H7. The EHEC-hlyA gene, however, is present in both. In conclusion, this study shows that the large plasmids of STEC are not uniform genetic elements but heterogeneous in both their gene composition and arrangement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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