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Chem Immunol Allergy. 2007;93:42-57. doi: 10.1159/000100857.

The SaPIs: mobile pathogenicity islands of Staphylococcus.

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Skirball Institute, Program in Molecular Pathogenesis, and Departments of Microbiology and Medicine, New York University Medical Center, New York, N.Y., USA.


The SaPIs are 15- to 17-kb mobile pathogenicity islands in staphylococci. They usually carry two or more superantigens and are responsible for most superantigen-related human diseases, especially staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome. SaPIs are extremely common in Staphylococcus aureus, with all but one of the sequenced genomes containing one or more. The SaPIs have a highly conserved overall genome organization, parallel to that of typical temperate phages. Each occupies a specific chromosomal site from which it is induced to excise and replicate by one or more specific staphylococcal phages. Following replication, the SaPI DNA is efficiently encapsidated into infectious small-headed phage-like particles, resulting in extremely high transfer frequencies.

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