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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2010 Mar;8(3):196-206. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2283. Epub 2010 Feb 8.

The phasevarion: phase variation of type III DNA methyltransferases controls coordinated switching in multiple genes.

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Institute for Glycomics, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, 4222, Australia.


In several host-adapted pathogens, phase variation has been found to occur in genes that encode methyltransferases associated with type III restriction-modification systems. It was recently shown that in the human pathogens Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis phase variation of a type III DNA methyltransferase, encoded by members of the mod gene family, regulates the expression of multiple genes. This novel genetic system has been termed the 'phasevarion' (phase-variable regulon). The wide distribution of phase-variable mod family genes indicates that this may be a common strategy used by host-adapted bacterial pathogens to randomly switch between distinct cell types.

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