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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jan;59(2):402-14.

Antigenic variation in Babesia bovis occurs through segmental gene conversion of the ves multigene family, within a bidirectional locus of active transcription.

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Department of Pathobiology, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA.


Antigenic variation in Babesia bovis is one aspect of a multifunctional virulence/survival mechanism mediated by the heterodimeric variant erythrocyte surface antigen 1 (VESA1) protein that also involves endothelial cytoadhesion with sequestration of mature parasitized erythrocytes. The ves1alpha gene encoding the VESA1a subunit was previously identified. In this study, we present the unique organization of the genomic locus from which ves1alpha is transcribed, and identify a novel branch of the ves multigene family, ves1beta. These genes are found together, closely juxtaposed and divergently oriented, at the locus of active transcription. We provide compelling evidence that variation of both transcriptionally active genes occurs through a mechanism of segmental gene conversion involving sequence donor genes of similar organization. These results also suggest the possibility of epigenetic regulation through in situ switching among gene loci, further expanding the potential repertoire of variant proteins.

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