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Gene. 2002 Jul 10;294(1-2):249-57.

Characterization of IS999, an unstable genetic element in Mycobacterium avium.

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Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, 4 Nickerson Street, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


An IS3-family insertion element, IS999, was identified in the opportunistic pathogen Mycobacterium avium. The 1347 bp element has 29 bp inverted repeats and two overlapping open reading frames coding for putative transposases. It was detected in the genomes of ten of 12 M. avium isolates examined. Copy numbers ranged from four to 16. IS999 is less stable than IS1245, the most commonly-used marker for typing M. avium isolates. Among 60 colonies picked from a single patient isolate, there were two distinct IS1245 restriction fragment length polymorphism banding patterns compared to eight distinct IS999 patterns (five in one IS1245 group and three in the other). In view of its instability, we asked whether transposition of IS999 might have phenotypic consequences. Nucleotide sequence analysis of insertion sites in four isolates revealed 16 putative structural genes that were variably disrupted by IS999. Insertions into hdhA, a gene that codes for a putative short chain alcohol dehydrogenase, were distributed non-randomly between colony type variants, consistent with phenotypic consequences that exert selective pressure. These observations illustrate the genetic heterogeneity that can exist within populations of M. avium that appear to be homogeneous by IS1245 analysis. IS999 may be a useful marker for tracking, at the sub-strain level, the rapid genetic drift that M. avium isolates undergo in nature and in the laboratory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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