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Curr Microbiol. 2001 Oct;43(4):271-7.

Characterization of the prfA virulence gene cluster insertion site in non-hemolytic Listeria spp.: probing the evolution of the Listeria virulence gene island.

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Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The prfA virulence gene cluster is present between prs and ldh in the pathogenic L. monocytogenes and L. ivanovii, but absent from the non-pathogenic L. innocua and L. welshimeri. To probe the evolution of this virulence gene cluster, we sequenced the prs-ldh intergenic region in L. welshimeri and L. innocua. Two ORFs (ORFA and ORFB) were found in both species as well as in L. monocytogenes. Another ORF of unknown function (ORFZ) was found in L. monocytogenes and L. innocua, while two unique ORFs were present in L. welshimeri. ORFA and ORFB showed significant functional constraint, suggesting that further investigations in the functions of these genes, including possible roles in horizontal gene transfer or sequence deletion, are warranted. DNA sequences homologous to Tn1545 integration consensus sequences were found downstream of prs and ORFB, thus defining the likely junctions of the virulence gene island and indicating that the prs-ldh intergenic region may represent a Tn insertion hot spot. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that a combination of horizontal gene transfer and deletion events mayhave been involved in the evolution of the prfA virulence gene cluster in Listeria.

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