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Mol Microbiol. 1998 Jun;28(5):1027-38.

Natural competence for DNA transformation in Helicobacter pylori: identification and genetic characterization of the comB locus.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Biologie, Abteilung, Infektionsbiologie, Tübingen, Germany.


The gram-negative bacterial pathogen Helicobacter pylori, an important aetiological agent of gastroduodenal disease in humans, belongs to a group of bacterial species displaying competence for genetic transformation. Here, we describe the comB gene locus of H. pylori involved in DNA transformation competence. It consists of a cluster of four tandemly arranged genes with partially overlapping open reading frames, orf2, comB1, comB2 and comB3, constituting a single transcriptional unit. Orf2 encodes a 37-amino-acid peptide carrying a signal sequence, whereas comB1, comB2 and comB3 produce 29 kDa, 38 kDa and 42 kDa proteins, respectively, as demonstrated by immunoblotting with specific antisera. For Orf2 and ComB1, no homologous proteins were identified in the database. For ComB3, the best homologies were found with TraS/TraB from the Pseudomonas aeruginosa conjugative plasmid RP1 and TrbI of plasmid RP4, VirB10 from the Ti plasmid of Agrobacterium tumefaciens and PtlG, a protein involved in secretion of pertussis toxin of Bordetella pertussis. Defined transposon knock-out mutants in individual comB genes resulted in transformation-defective phenotypes ranging from a 90% reduction to a complete loss of the natural transformation efficiency. The comB2 and comB3 genes show homology to HP0528 and HP0527, respectively, located on the cagII pathogenicity island of H. pylori strain 26695.

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