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PLoS One. 2008;3(11):e3797. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003797. Epub 2008 Nov 24.

Mosaic DNA imports with interspersions of recipient sequence after natural transformation of Helicobacter pylori.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hospital Epidemiology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Helicobacter pylori colonizes the gastric mucosa of half of the human population, causing gastritis, ulcers, and cancer. H. pylori is naturally competent for transformation by exogenous DNA, and recombination during mixed infections of one stomach with multiple H. pylori strains generates extensive allelic diversity. We developed an in vitro transformation protocol to study genomic imports after natural transformation of H. pylori. The mean length of imported fragments was dependent on the combination of donor and recipient strain and varied between 1294 bp and 3853 bp. In about 10% of recombinant clones, the imported fragments of donor DNA were interrupted by short interspersed sequences of the recipient (ISR) with a mean length of 82 bp. 18 candidate genes were inactivated in order to identify genes involved in the control of import length and generation of ISR. Inactivation of the antimutator glycosylase MutY increased the length of imports, but did not have a significant effect on ISR frequency. Overexpression of mutY strongly increased the frequency of ISR, indicating that MutY, while not indispensable for ISR formation, is part of at least one ISR-generating pathway. The formation of ISR in H. pylori increases allelic diversity, and contributes to the uniquely low linkage disequilibrium characteristic of this pathogen.

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