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J Med Microbiol. 2012 Feb;61(Pt 2):191-7. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.030858-0. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

Variability of trinucleotide tandem repeats in the MgPa operon and its repetitive chromosomal elements in Mycoplasma genitalium.

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  • 1Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.


Mycoplasma genitalium, a human pathogen associated with sexually transmitted diseases, is unique in that it has the smallest genome of any known free-living organism. Despite its small genome, 4.7 % of the total genomic sequence is devoted to making the MgPa adhesin operon (containing the MG190, MG191 and MG192 genes) and its repetitive chromosomal sequences (known as MgPars). The goals of this study were to investigate the location, organization and variability of trinucleotide tandem repeats (TTRs) in the MgPa operon and MgPars and to explore the possible mechanisms and role of TTR variations. By analysing the complete MgPa operon and complete or partial MgPar sequences in a collection of 15 geographically diverse clinical strains of M. genitalium, TTR sequences were identified in four regions in MG191, one region in MG192, and two or three regions in each of all nine MgPars except for MgPar 3. These TTRs were variable not only in the repeat copy number but also in the repeat unit sequence among or within strains. The key mechanisms for the TTR variations likely include recombination between MgPa and MgPars, and slipped-strand mispairing. TTR variation may represent a mechanism to maximize the variation of the MgPa operon, which is complementary to genetic variation involving segmental recombination between MgPa and MgPars, thus enhancing the organism's ability to adhere to and colonize host cells as well as evasion of the host immune system.

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