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Int J Med Microbiol. 2003 Jun;293(2-3):203-11.

Phase variation of the multiple banded protein in Ureaplasma urealyticum and Ureaplasma parvum.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, Medical Faculty, Technical University of Dresden, Germany.


Ureaplasma urealyticum and U. parvum are common commensals and, possibly, pathogens of the human urogenital tract. Like other Mycoplasmatales they possess variable surface proteins. The multiple banded (MB) protein shows a striking variability of its molecular weight. This is caused by changes of the number of C-terminal repeating units. In this study, selective pressure was imposed against cytadherence of U. urealyticum and U. parvum. Ureaplasmas were co-incubated with either erythrocytes or HeLa cells and the cell-bound fraction was removed. Additionally, U. urealyticum populations were transferred serially through broth containing specific polyclonal antibodies. Both approaches led to the emergence of escape variants in which no MB protein was detectable. PCR studies with several primers on different parts of the mba gene indicated major differences between wild-type strains and MB-negative escape variants. In experiments with clonal lineages, however, the loss of the MB protein was shown to be reversible. Therefore, it is proposed that the multiple banded proteins of U. urealyticum and U. parvum are subjected to a phase-switching mechanism as it has already been described for several other Mycoplasmatales.

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