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PLoS Pathog. 2010 Jul 29;6(7):e1001026. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001026.

DNA damage triggers genetic exchange in Helicobacter pylori.

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Division of Human Biology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Many organisms respond to DNA damage by inducing expression of DNA repair genes. We find that the human stomach pathogen Helicobacter pylori instead induces transcription and translation of natural competence genes, thus increasing transformation frequency. Transcription of a lysozyme-like protein that promotes DNA donation from intact cells is also induced. Exogenous DNA modulates the DNA damage response, as both recA and the ability to take up DNA are required for full induction of the response. This feedback loop is active during stomach colonization, indicating a role in the pathogenesis of the bacterium. As patients can be infected with multiple genetically distinct clones of H. pylori, DNA damage induced genetic exchange may facilitate spread of antibiotic resistance and selection of fitter variants through re-assortment of preexisting alleles in this important human pathogen.

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