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Microbiology. 2009 Apr;155(Pt 4):1241-9. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.025437-0.

Identification of a site-specific tyrosine recombinase that mediates promoter inversions of phase-variable mpl lipoprotein genes in Mycoplasma penetrans.

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Department of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Infection Control, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Musashimurayama, Tokyo 208-0011, Japan.


Mycoplasma penetrans has the ability to change its surface lipoprotein profiles frequently. The P35 family lipoproteins encoded by the mpl genes are key players in this profile variation. The M. penetrans HF-2 genome has 38 mpl genes that form three gene clusters. Most of these mpl genes have an invertible promoter sequence that is responsible for the ON/OFF switching of individual mpl gene expression. Here, we identified the recombinase that catalyses inversions of the mpl gene promoters. We focused on two open reading frames of the M. penetrans HF-2 genome, namely MYPE2900 and MYPE8180, which show significant homology to the tyrosine site-specific recombinase (Tsr) family proteins. Since genetic tools for M. penetrans are still not developed, we cloned the MYPE2900 and MYPE8180 genes and expressed them in Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Escherichia coli. The promoter regions of the mpl genes [p35 (MYPE6810) or p42 (MYPE6630) genes] were also introduced into M. pneumoniae and E. coli cells expressing MYPE2900 or MYPE8180. Inversion of these promoters occurred in the presence of the MYPE2900 gene but not in the presence of the MYPE8180 gene, indicating that the MYPE2900 gene product is the recombinase that catalyses mpl gene promoter inversions. We used a PCR-based method to detect mpl promoter inversion. This method also enabled us to detect inversions of 10 mpl gene promoters in M. penetrans HF-2 cells. All these promoter inversions occurred at the 12 bp inverted repeat (IR) sequences flanking the promoter sequence. The consensus sequence of these IRs was proposed as TAAYNNNDATTA (Y=C or T; D=A, G or T).

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