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J Infect Dis. 2008 Sep 1;198(5):741-9. doi: 10.1086/590433.

Variation in the major surface glycoprotein genes in Pneumocystis jirovecii.

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Critical Care Medicine Department, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


The genome of Pneumocystis, which causes life-threatening pneumonia in immunosuppressed patients, contains a multicopy gene family that encodes the major surface glycoprotein (Msg). Pneumocystis can vary the expressed Msg, presumably as a mechanism to avoid host immune responses. Analysis of 24 msg-gene sequences obtained from a single human isolate of Pneumocystis demonstrated that the sequences segregate into 2 branches. Results of a number of analyses suggest that recombination between msg genes is an important mechanism for generating msg diversity. Intrabranch recombination occurred more frequently than interbranch recombination. Restriction-fragment length polymorphism analysis of human isolates of Pneumocystis demonstrated substantial variation in the repertoire of the msg-gene family, variation that was not observed in laboratory isolates of Pneumocystis in rats or mice; this may be the result of examining outbred versus captive populations. Increased diversity in the Msg repertoire, generated in part by recombination, increases the potential for antigenic variation in this abundant surface protein.

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