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J Bacteriol. 2002 May;184(10):2620-5.

The O-antigen gene cluster of Escherichia coli O55:H7 and identification of a new UDP-GlcNAc C4 epimerase gene.

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Department of Microbiology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.


Escherichia coli O55 is an important antigen which is often associated with enteropathogenic E. coli clones. We sequenced the genes responsible for its synthesis and identified genes for O-antigen polymerase, O-antigen flippase, four enzymes involved in GDP-colitose synthesis, and three glycosyltransferases, all by comparison with known genes. Upstream of the normal O-antigen region there is a gne gene, which encodes a UDP-GlcNAc epimerase for converting UDP-GlcNAc to UDP-GalNAc and is essential for O55 antigen synthesis. The O55 gne product has only 20 and 26% identity to the gne genes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E. coli O113, respectively. We also found evidence for the O55 gene cluster's having evolved from another gene cluster by gain and loss of genes. Only three of the GDP-colitose pathway genes are in the usual location, the other two being separated, although nearby. It is thought that the E. coli O157:H7 clone evolved from the O55:H7 clone in part by transfer of the O157 gene cluster into an O55 lineage. Comparison of genes flanking the O-antigen gene clusters of the O55:H7 and O157:H7 clones revealed one recombination site within the galF gene and located the other between the hisG and amn genes. Genes outside the recombination sites are 99.6 to 100% identical in the two clones, while most genes thought to have transferred with the O157 gene cluster are 95 to 98% identical.

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