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J Bacteriol. 2002 Apr;184(7):1873-9.

Strains of Escherichia coli O157:H7 differ primarily by insertions or deletions, not single-nucleotide polymorphisms.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 (O157) strains demonstrate varied pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns following XbaI digestion, which enable epidemiological surveillance of this important human pathogen. The genetic events underlying PFGE differences between strains, however, are not defined. We investigated the mechanisms for strain variation in O157 by recovering and examining nucleotide sequences flanking each of the XbaI restriction enzyme sites in the genome. Our analysis demonstrated that differences between O157 strains were due to discrete insertions or deletions that contained the XbaI sites polymorphic between strains rather than single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the XbaI sites themselves. These insertions and deletions were found to be uniquely localized within the regions of the genome that are specific to O157 compared to E. coli K-12 (O islands), suggesting that strain-to-strain variation occurs in these O islands. These results may be utilized to devise novel strain-typing tools for this pathogen.

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