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Int J Med Microbiol. 2003 Feb;292(7-8):463-75.

Dissemination of pheU- and pheV-located genomic islands among enteropathogenic (EPEC) and enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) E. coli and their possible role in the horizontal transfer of the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE).

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Institut für Mikrobiologie und Tierseuchen, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


We have recently shown that the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) of the bovine enterohemorrhagic E. coli RW1374 (O103:H2) resides within a large pathogenicity island (PAI), integrated in the vicinity of the phenylalanine tRNA gene pheV. Here we describe an additional, but LEE-negative genomic island in RW1374 in the vicinity of another phenylalanine tRNA gene, pheU, the sequence of which is identical to pheV. These two genomic islands revealed identity of the left, but a relative variability of their right end sequences. To investigate the mechanism of LEE-PAI distribution in E. coli, we analysed similar junctions in the pheU/pheV loci of additional EPEC and EHEC strains the LEE location of which had not been determined before. By hybridisation of NotI restriction fragments with probes specific for LEE, pheV locus, and pheU locus, the LEE was found linked to either one of these two loci. The results agreed well with recently published phylogenetic data and indicate that in the clones of diarrheagenic E. coli (Dec) Dec 11 and Dec 12, forming the phylogenetic cluster EPEC 2, and in the strains of the most typical serotypes of the Dec 8, belonging to the phylogenetic cluster EHEC 2, the LEE was linked with pheV and not with the pheU locus as previously assumed. Sequence comparison with other pheU- and pheV-located genomic islands from different E. coli pathotypes (uropathogenic E. coli, septicemic E. coli) as well as from Shigella indicated the same structural features at the junctions. These conserved structures suggested a common DNA cassette, serving as common vehicle for horizontal gene transfer of various PAls. In addition, the elements suggest an origin from a common pheU-located ancestor and integration into the chromosome through site-specific recombination. Our results indicate that pheU/pheV-located genomic islands played an important role in the evolution of several PAls in E. coli and related pathogens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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