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Infect Immun. 2001 Dec;69(12):7572-82.

Distribution and genetic diversity of suilysin in Streptococcus suis isolated from different diseases of pigs and characterization of the genetic basis of suilysin absence.

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Infectious Disease Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.


Streptococcus suis is an economically important pathogen of pigs responsible for a variety of diseases including meningitis, septicemia, arthritis, and pneumonia, although little is known about the mechanisms of pathogenesis or virulence factors associated with this organism. Here, we report on the distribution and genetic diversity of the putative virulence factor suilysin, a member of the thiol-activated toxin family of gram-positive bacteria. On the basis of PCR analysis of over 300 isolates of S. suis, the suilysin-encoding gene, sly, was detected in 69.4% of isolates. However, sly was present in a considerably higher proportion of isolates obtained from cases of meningitis, septicemia, and arthritis (>80%) and isolates obtained from asymptomatic tonsillar carriage (>90%) than lung isolates associated with pneumonia (44%). With the exception of serotypes 1, 14, and 1/14, there was no strong correlation between the presence of suilysin and serotype. Analysis of the genetic diversity of suilysin by restriction fragment length polymorphism and sequence analysis found that the suilysin gene, where present, is highly conserved with a maximum of 1.79% diversity at the nucleotide level seen between sly alleles. Assays of hemolytic activity and hybridization analysis provided no evidence for a second member of the thiol-activated toxin family in S. suis. Inverse PCR was used to characterize regions flanking sly, which in turn allowed the first characterization of the equivalent region in a strain lacking sly. Sequence comparison of these regions from sly-positive (P1/7) and sly-negative (DH5) strains indicated that two alternative arrangements are both flanked by genes with highest similarity to haloacid dehalogenase-like hydrolases (5' end) and putative N-acetylmannosamine-6-phosphate epimerases (3' end). However, sly appears to be completely absent from the alternative arrangement, and a gene of unknown function is located in the equivalent position. Finally, PCR analysis of multiple sly-positive and -negative strains indicated that these two alternative genetic arrangements are conserved among many S. suis isolates.

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