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Nature. 1985 Nov 21-27;318(6043):257-63.

Transposition of structural genes to an expression sequence on a linear plasmid causes antigenic variation in the bacterium Borrelia hermsii.


In Borrelia hermsii, a spirochaete that causes relapsing fever, the switch between expression of two frequent variable major protein (VMP) types (7 and 21) is associated with a DNA rearrangement. Both cell types 7 and 21 contain untranscribed 7 and 21 VMP genes on linear plasmids. The serotype 7 cells contain an additional copy of the 7 VMP gene fused to an expression sequence on another linear plasmid. Switching to the 21 serotype involves removal of the transcribed 7 VMP gene and fusion of a copy of the 21 VMP gene to this same expression sequence. Thus recombination between linear plasmids can activate different VMP genes.

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