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Microb Pathog. 1993 Jan;14(1):9-21.

Chromosomal irp2 gene in Yersinia: distribution, expression, deletion and impact on virulence.

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Unité de Bactériologie Moléculaire et Médicale, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Iron starvation induces the synthesis of two high molecular weight proteins (HMWP1 and 2) in Yersinia. The presence of the irp2 gene coding for the HMWP2 was investigated in 170 Yersinia strains. This gene was absent from all avirulent or weakly pathogenic species and was restricted to highly pathogenic strains. One hundred percent of the potentially highly pathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica biotype 1B harbored irp2 but surprisingly, 70.4% of the Yersinia pseudotuberculosis tested lacked the gene. Only serotypes I and III of Y. pseudotuberculosis harbored the locus, however, synthesis of HMWPs was detected uniquely in the former. In Yersinia pestis, overall 55.3% of the strains tested had the gene, with an uneven distribution among Orientalis (65.2%), Antiqua (66.6%) and Medievalis (0%) geographic variants. Except for one Y. pestis strain, the irp2 restriction profiles were identical for all strains of Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis tested. All Y. enterocolitica 1B displayed the same irp2 pattern, different from that of the other two species. In vitro spontaneous deletion of irp2 was not obtained in Y. enterocolitica 1B but was observed in both Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. pestis. Repeated subcultures of Y. pestis increased progressively the proportion of irp2-deleted colonies, yielding an almost pure irp2-deleted strain after 16 subcultures. A clear correlation was established between the presence of irp2 and the level of virulence of Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. pestis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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