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Environ Microbiol. 2010 Nov;12(11):2977-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2010.02274.x.

O-antigen diversity and lateral transfer of the wbe region among Vibrio splendidus isolates.

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Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


The O-antigen is a highly diverse structure expressed on the outer surface of Gram-negative bacteria. The products responsible for O-antigen synthesis are encoded in the wbe region, which exhibits extensive genetic diversity. While heterogeneous O-antigens are observed within Vibrio species, characterization of these structures has been devoted almost exclusively to pathogens. Here, we investigate O-antigen diversity among coastal marine Vibrio splendidus-like isolates. The wbe region was first identified and characterized using the sequenced genomes of strains LGP32, 12B01 and Med222. These regions were genetically diverse, reflective of their expressed O-antigen. Additional isolates from physically distinct habitats in Plum Island Estuary (MA, USA), including within animal hosts and on suspended particles, were further characterized based on multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) and O-antigen profiles. Results showed serotype diversity within an ecological setting. Among 48 isolates which were identical in three MLSA genes, 41 showed gpm genetic diversity, a gene closely linked to the wbe locus, and at least 12 expressed different O-antigen profiles further suggesting wbe genetic diversity. Our results demonstrate O-antigen hyper-variability among these environmental strains and suggest that frequent lateral gene transfer generates wbe extensive diversity among V. splendidus and its close relatives.

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