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Future Microbiol. 2010 Jul;5(7):1073-85. doi: 10.2217/fmb.10.71.

Phase and antigenic variation in mycoplasmas.

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INRA, UMR 1225, F-31076 Toulouse, France.


With their reduced genome bound by a single membrane, bacteria of the Mycoplasma species represent some of the simplest autonomous life forms. Yet, these minute prokaryotes are able to establish persistent infection in a wide range of hosts, even in the presence of a specific immune response. Clues to their success in host adaptation and survival reside, in part, in a number of gene families that are affected by frequent, stochastic genotypic changes. These genetic events alter the expression, the size and the antigenic structure of abundant surface proteins, thereby creating highly versatile and dynamic surfaces within a clonal population. This phenomenon provides these wall-less pathogens with a means to escape the host immune response and to modulate surface accessibility by masking and unmasking stably expressed components that are essential in host interaction and survival.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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