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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Jul;37(2):316-30.

Characterization of the O-antigen gene clusters of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and the cryptic O-antigen gene cluster of Yersinia pestis shows that the plague bacillus is most closely related to and has evolved from Y. pseudotuberculosis serotype O:1b.

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1
Department of Medical Biochemistry, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Kiinamyllynkatu 10, 20520 Turku, Finland. mskurnik@utu.fi

Abstract

One of the most virulent and feared bacterial pathogens is Yersinia pestis, the aetiologic agent of bubonic plague. Characterization of the O-antigen gene clusters of 21 serotypes of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and the cryptic O-antigen gene cluster of Y. pestis showed that the plague bacillus is most closely related to and has evolved from Y. pseudotuberculosis serotype O:1b. The nucleotide sequences of both gene clusters (about 20.5 kb each) were determined and compared to identify the differences that caused the silencing of the Y. pestis gene cluster. At the nucleotide sequence level, the loci were 98.9% identical and, of the 17 biosynthetic genes identified from the O:1b gene cluster, five were inactivated in the Y. pestis cluster, four by insertions or deletions of one nucleotide and one by a deletion of 62 nucleotides. Apparently, the expression of the O-antigen is not beneficial for the virulence or to the lifestyle of Y. pestis and, therefore, as one step in the evolution of Y. pestis, the O-antigen gene cluster was inactivated.

PMID:
10931327
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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