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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2012 Apr;329(2):102-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2012.02505.x. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

Identification of the anti-terminator qO111:H)- gene in Norwegian sorbitol-fermenting Escherichia coli O157:NM.

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Department of Foodborne Infections, The Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.


Sorbitol-fermenting Escherichia coli O157:NM (SF O157) is an emerging pathogen suggested to be more virulent than nonsorbitol-fermenting Escherichia coli O157:H7 (NSF O157). Important virulence factors are the Shiga toxins (stx), encoded by stx1 and/or stx2 located within prophages integrated in the bacterial genome. The stx genes are expressed from p(R) (') as a late protein, and anti-terminator activity from the Q protein is necessary for read through of the late terminator t(R) (') and activation of p(R) (') . We investigated the regulation of stx2(EDL933) expression at the genomic level in 17 Norwegian SF O157. Sequencing of three selected SF O157 strains revealed that the anti-terminator q gene and genes upstream of stx2(EDL933) were identical or similar to the ones observed in the E. coli O111:H- strain AP010960, but different from the ones observed in the NSF O157 strain EDL933 (AE005174). This suggested divergent stx2(EDL933) -encoding bacteriophages between NSF O157 and the SF O157 strains (FR874039-41). Furthermore, different DNA structures were detected in the SF O157 strains, suggesting diversity among bacteriophages also within the SF O157 group. Further investigations are needed to elucidate whether the q(O111:H) (-) gene observed in all our SF O157 contributes to the increased virulence seen in SF O157 compared to NSF O157. An assay for detecting q(O111:H) (-) was developed.

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