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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Mar;79(6):1934-41. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03682-12. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Identification and characterization of spontaneous deletions within the Sp11-Sp12 prophage region of Escherichia coli O157:H7 Sakai.

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Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA.


Prophages make up 12% of the enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli genome and play prominent roles in the evolution and virulence of this food-borne pathogen. Acquisition and loss of and rearrangements within prophage regions are the primary causes of differences in pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns among strains of E. coli O157:H7. Sp11 and Sp12 are two tandemly integrated and putatively defective prophages carried by E. coli O157:H7 strain Sakai. In this study, we identified 3 classes of deletions that occur within the Sp11-Sp12 region, at a frequency of ca. 7.74 × 10(-4). One deletion resulted in a precise excision of Sp11, and the other two spanned the junction of Sp11 and Sp12. All deletions resulted in shifts in the XbaI fragment pattern observed by PFGE. We sequenced the inducible prophage pool of Sakai but did not identify any mature phage particles corresponding to either Sp11 or Sp12. Deletions containing pchB and psrC, which are Sp11-carried genes encoding proteins known or suspected to regulate type III secretion, did not affect the secretion levels of the EspA or EspB effector. Alignment of the Sp11-Sp12 DNA sequence with its corresponding regions in other E. coli O157:H7 and O55:H7 strains suggested that homologous recombination rather than integrase-mediated excision is the mechanism behind these deletions. Therefore, this study provides a mechanism behind the previously observed genetic instability of this genomic region of E. coli O157:H7.

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