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J Clin Microbiol. 1996 Oct;34(10):2531-6.

Two different 16S rRNA genes in a mycobacterial strain.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Hôpital Cantonal Universitaire, Geneva, Switzerland.


Sequencing of the gene coding for 16S rRNA (16S rDNA) is a well-established method used to identify bacteria, particularly mycobacteria. Unique sequences allow identification of a particular genus and species. If more than one 16S rDNA is present on one mycobacterial genome, their sequences are assumed to be strictly or almost identical. We have isolated a slowly growing Mycobacterium strain, "X", identified by conventional biochemical tests as Mycobacterium terrae. Identification by amplification and direct sequencing of 16S rDNA yielded ambiguous results in two variable regions, suggesting the presence of different copies of the sequenced gene. Total DNA was digested by restriction enzymes and hybridized after Southern blotting to a probe representing about two-thirds of the 16S rDNA. Two copies of 16S rDNA were identified and cloned. By sequencing, the clones were of two different types, A and B, differing in 18 positions. Oligonucleotides specific to each copy of the 16S rDNA were used to distinguish the positions of the two genes observed in the Southern blot. We conclude that Mycobacterium strain "X" has two different copies of 16S rDNA. Variations in the sequence between two copies of 16S rDNA gene have been described in archaeobacteria, but not in mycobacteria. When placed in a phylogenetic tree together with other slowly growing mycobacteria gene A shows a common root with M. terrae, whereas gene B is placed separately.

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