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J Endotoxin Res. 2002;8(1):47-58.

Phase variable changes in genes lgtA and lgtC within the lgtABCDE operon of Neisseria gonorrhoeae can modulate gonococcal susceptibility to normal human serum.

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Laboratories of Bacterial Pathogenesis, Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Atlanta), Decatur, Georgia 30333, USA.


The alpha-chain of the core oligosaccharide of the lipo-oligosaccharide (LOS) produced by Neisseria gonorrhoeae can undergo reversible and rapid changes in structure due to phase-variable production of certain enzymes employed in the biosynthesis of the lacto-N-neotetraose structure. Five of these enzymes are encoded by the lgtABCDE operon, and polynucleotide tracts within three of these genes (lgtA, lgtC and lgtD) can be substrates for slipped-strand mispairing events that lead to nucleotide insertions or deletion events which result in variable production of their respective gene products. We now report that phase-variable synthesis of the lgtA and lgtC gene products in strain FA19 results in the production of elongated LOS alpha-chains and that the presence of these LOS species can result in gonococci being sensitive to the bacteriolytic action of serum-antibody and complement. Hence, phase variation within the lgtABCDE operon can significantly impact the ability of gonococci to subvert this important host defense system.

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