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J Bacteriol. 2002 Jul;184(13):3623-9.

Type 1 capsule genes of Staphylococcus aureus are carried in a staphylococcal cassette chromosome genetic element.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and Immunology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas 66160, USA.


The cap1 genes are required for the synthesis of type 1 capsular polysaccharide (CP1) in Staphylococcus aureus. We previously showed that the cap1 locus was associated with a discrete genetic element in S. aureus M. In this report, we defined the boundaries of the cap1 element by comparing its restriction pattern to that of a corresponding region from the CP1-negative strain Becker. The element was located in the SmaI-G chromosomal fragment of the standard mapping strain NCTC8325. The sequences of the entire cap1 element and the flanking regions were determined. We found that there were two additional cap1 genes not previously identified. The cap1 operon was located in a staphylococcal cassette chromosome (SCC) element similar to the resistance island SCCmec recently described for methicillin resistance in S. aureus. Notably, the SCCcap1 element was located at the same insertion site as all the SCCmec elements in the staphylococcal chromosome. The excision of SCCcap1 could be demonstrated only in the presence of the recombinase genes from an SCCmec element, verifying that SCCcap1 is a genuine SCC element but defective in mobilization. A novel enterotoxin gene, whose transcript was detected by Northern blotting, was found next to the SCCcap1 locus. We propose that the enterotoxin gene and SCCcap1 were inserted into this locus at the juxtaposition by independent events. Sequence comparison revealed numerous DNA rearrangements and mutations in SCCcap1 and the left flanking region, suggesting that the SCCcap1 had been inserted at the SCC attC site a long time ago. In addition, most genes in this region were incomplete, with the exception of the 15 cap1 genes, implying that the cap1 genes confer a survival advantage on strain M.

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