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J Med Microbiol. 1994 Sep;41(3):209-14.

Heterogeneity at the beta-lactamase structural gene ampC amongst Citrobacter spp. assessed by polymerase chain reaction analysis: potential for typing at a molecular level.

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Department of Microbiology and Pathology, University of Bristol.


Considerable biochemical diversity and polynucleotide sequence variation have been reported amongst strains of Citrobacter spp. However, sequence heterogeneity has not been investigated at gene loci of clinical relevance. In this study, sequence heterogeneity in the beta-lactamase structural gene, ampC, amongst 91 clinical isolates of Citrobacter spp. that showed resistance to various third-generation cephalosporins was investigated. Variation was examined by high-stringency polymerase chain reactions (PCR) with primers homologous to the known ampC sequences of C. freundii strains OS60 and I113, and C. diversus NF85. If an isolate contained an ampC gene homologous to one of these three characterised ampC genes, a single PCR band of a predictable size was generated with the appropriate primer set; 50 (60%) of isolates gave a PCR product of the expected size with the OS60 primer set and nine (10%) gave a product with the I113 primer set. All these 59 isolates were identified as C. freundii by API-20E strips. Six isolates (7%) gave a product with the C. diversus NF85 primer set but only four of these were identified as C. diversus in API-20E tests; the other two isolates were identified as C. freundii. Of the 91 isolates, 28 (31%), were identified as either C. freundii or C. diversus, but gave no PCR product with any primer set tested. Five of these showed no homology to any of the reference strain ampC PCR products in hybridisation tests. Nevertheless, all showed beta-lactamase activity. Overall, this method allowed the identification of novel ampC gene loci, which may serve as a basis for the identification of Citrobacter spp. rapidly at a molecular level.

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