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J Infect Dis. 2010 Jul 1;202(1):29-38. doi: 10.1086/653123.

A new pneumococcal serotype, 11E, has a variably inactivated wcjE gene.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294-2170, USA.


Recently, 2 serologically and biochemically distinct subtypes-11Aalpha and 11Abeta-were discovered among serotype 11A isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Sequence comparison of the capsular polysaccharide synthesis (cps) loci of the 2 subtypes identified disruption of the wcjE gene, a putative O-acetyltransferase, as the genetic hallmark of the 11Abeta phenotype. Directed disruption of wcjE in vitro in an 11Aalpha strain switched the strain to the 11Abeta phenotype, confirming the role played by the gene in the divergence between the subtypes. Furthermore, sequences from 7 11Abeta clinical strains each contained unrelated disruptive mutations in the wcjE gene, displaying an unprecedented degree of genetic heterogeneity in a pneumococcal serotype. We propose to name the 11Aalpha subtype as serotype 11A and the 11Abeta subtype as 11E, a new serotype. Our findings also suggest that the diversity of pneumococcal capsules is much greater than was previously recognized.

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