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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Dec 5;92(25):11829-33.

Characterization of repetitive DNA in the Mycoplasma genitalium genome: possible role in the generation of antigenic variation.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599, USA.


We have characterized a family of repetitive DNA elements with homology to the MgPa cellular adhesion operon of Mycoplasma genitalium, a bacterium that has the smallest known genome of any free-living organism. One element, 2272 bp in length and flanked by DNA with no homology to MgPa, was completely sequenced. At least four others were partially sequenced. The complete element is a composite of six regions. Five of these regions show sequence similarity with nonadjacent segments of genes of the MgPa operon. The sixth region, located near the center of the element, is an A+T-rich sequence that has only been found in this repeat family. Open reading frames are present within the five individual regions showing sequence homology to MgPa and the adjacent open reading frame 3 (ORF3) gene. However, termination codons are found between adjacent regions of homology to the MgPa operon and in the A+T-rich sequence. Thus, these repetitive elements do not appear to be directly expressible protein coding sequences. The sequence of one region from five different repetitive elements was compared with the homologous region of the MgPa gene from the type strain G37 and four newly isolated M. genitalium strains. Recombination between repetitive elements of strain G37 and the MgPa operon can explain the majority of polymorphisms within our partial sequences of the MgPa genes of the new isolates. Therefore, we propose that the repetitive elements of M. genitalium provide a reservoir of sequence that contributes to antigenic variation in proteins of the MgPa cellular adhesion operon.

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