Surface antigen variation in Mycoplasma agalactiae, the etiologic agent of contagious agalactia in sheep and goats, is governed by site-specific recombination within the vpma multigene locus encoding the Vpma family of variable surface lipoproteins. This high-frequency Vpma phase switching was previously shown to be mediated by a Xer1 recombinase encoded adjacent to the vpma locus. In this study, it was demonstrated in Escherichia coli that the Xer1 recombinase is responsible for catalyzing vpma gene inversions between recombination sites (RS) located in the 5′-untranslated region (UTR) in all six vpma genes, causing cleavage and strand exchange within a 21-bp conserved region that serves as a recognition sequence. It was further shown that the outcome of the site-specific recombination event depends on the orientation of the two vpma RS, as direct or inverted repeats. While recombination between inverted vpma RS led to inversions, recombination between direct repeat vpma RS led to excisions. Using a newly developed excision assay based on the lacZ reporter system, we were able to successfully demonstrate under native conditions that such Xer1-mediated excisions can indeed also occur in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2, whereas they were not observed in the control xer1-disrupted VpmaY phase-locked mutant (PLMY), which lacks Xer1 recombinase. Unless there are specific regulatory mechanisms preventing such excisions, this might be the cost that the pathogen has to render at the population level for maintaining this high-frequency phase variation machinery.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, an important pathogen of small ruminants, exhibits a very versatile surface architecture by switching multiple, related lipoproteins (Vpmas) on and off. In the type strain, PG2, Vpma phase variation is generated by a cluster of six vpma genes that undergo frequent DNA rearrangements via site-specific recombination. To further comprehend the degree of diversity that can be generated at the M. agalactiae surface, the vpma gene repertoire of a field strain, 5632, was analyzed and shown to contain an extended repertoire of 23 vpma genes distributed between two loci located 250 kbp apart. Loci I and II include 16 and 7 vpma genes, respectively, with all vpma genes of locus II being duplicated at locus I. Several Vpmas displayed a chimeric structure suggestive of homologous recombination, and a global proteomic analysis further indicated that at least 13 of the 16 Vpmas can be expressed by the 5632 strain. Because a single promoter is present in each vpma locus, concomitant Vpma expression can occur in a strain with duplicated loci. Consequently, the number of possible surface combinations is much higher for strain 5632 than for the type strain. Finally, our data suggested that insertion sequences are likely to be involved in 5632 vpma locus duplication at a remote chromosomal position. The role of such mobile genetic elements in chromosomal shuffling of genes encoding major surface components may have important evolutionary and epidemiological consequences for pathogens, such as mycoplasmas, that have a reduced genome and no cell wall.
The ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae possesses a family of abundantly expressed variable surface lipoproteins called Vpmas. Phenotypic switches between Vpma members have previously been correlated with DNA rearrangements within a locus of vpma genes and are proposed to play an important role in disease pathogenesis. In this study, six vpma genes were characterized in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. All vpma genes clustered within an 8-kb region and shared highly conserved 5′ untranslated regions, lipoprotein signal sequences, and short N-terminal sequences. Analyses of the vpma loci from consecutive clonal isolates showed that vpma DNA rearrangements were site specific and that cleavage and strand exchange occurred within a minimal region of 21 bp located within the 5′ untranslated region of all vpma genes. This process controlled expression of vpma genes by effectively linking the open reading frame (ORF) of a silent gene to a unique active promoter sequence within the locus. An ORF (xer1) immediately adjacent to one end of the vpma locus did not undergo rearrangement and had significant homology to a distinct subset of genes belonging to the λ integrase family of site-specific xer recombinases. It is proposed that xer1 codes for a site-specific recombinase that is not involved in chromosome dimer resolution but rather is responsible for the observed vpma-specific recombination in M. agalactiae.
A family of abundant surface proteins (Vpmas [variable proteins of Mycoplasma agalactiae]) undergoing phase variation in M. agalactiae has been characterized using monoclonal antibodies and specific polyclonal sera. Two expressed members of 39 kDa (Vpma39) and 34 kDa (Vpma34), which varied in expression between clones of a lineage, shared a common amino-terminal sequence but were immunologically distinct. An amino-terminal oligonucleotide probe identified multiple vpma genes which were clustered within a 14-kb ClaI genomic fragment. Rearrangements were found to have occurred within the vpma locus between clones which correlated with changes in their Vpma phenotype. Two neighboring vpma genes were cloned and sequenced from one M. agalactiae clonal variant expressing Vpma39. The two genes, vpmaX and vpmaY, were orientated divergently and shared highly homologous 5′ untranslated regions, 25-amino-acid (aa) lipoprotein leader sequences, and amino-terminal sequences. The vpmaY gene coded for 346 aa and 84% of the open reading frame, comprised of 1.5 units of a large repeat of 186 aa. Although the sequence for an entire second vpmaY repeat was present, it was prematurely terminated by insertion of two nucleotides. The vpmaX gene encoded 221 aa and possessed 102 aa of the 186-aa repeat of vpmaY. Many of the features in common between the vpma genes were also found to be shared by the vsp genes of M. bovis, which also undergo DNA rearrangements concomitant with phenotypic changes. Since M. bovis is the closest phylogenetic relative to M. agalactiae, the vpma and vsp gene families most probably represent homologous systems.
The genetic diversity of Mycoplasma agalactiae (MA) isolates collected in Spain from goats in an area with contagious agalactia (CA) was assessed using a set of validated and new molecular typing methods. Validated methods included pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) typing, and Southern blot hybridization using a set of MA DNA probes, including those for typing the vpma genes repertoire. New approaches were based on PCR and targeted genomic regions that diverged between strains as defined by in silico genomic comparisons of sequenced MA genomes.
Overall, the data showed that all typing tools yielded consistent results, with the VNTR analyses being the most rapid method to differentiate the MA isolates with a discriminatory ability comparable to that of PFGE and of a set of new PCR assays. All molecular typing approaches indicated that the Spanish isolates from the endemic area in Murcia were very diverse, with different clonal isolates probably restricted to separate, but geographically close, local areas.
The important genetic diversity of MA observed in infected goats from Spain contrasts with the overall homogeneity of the genomic background encountered in MA from sheep with CA in Southern France or Italy, suggesting that assessment of the disease status in endemic areas may require different approaches in sheep and in goats. A number of congruent sub-typing tools are now available for the differentiation of caprine isolates with comparable discriminatory powers.
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Molecular typing; Contagious agalactia; Goats
Mycoplasma agalactiae, the etiological agent of contagious agalactia of small ruminants, has a family of related genes (avg genes) which encode surface lipoprotein antigens that undergo phase variation. A series of 13 M. agalactiae clonal isolates, obtained from one chronically infected animal over a period of 7 months, were found to undergo major rearrangement events within the avg genomic locus. We show that these rearrangements regulate the phase-variable expression of individual avg genes. Northern blot analysis and reverse transcription-PCR showed that only one avg gene is transcribed, while the other avg genes are transcriptionally silent. Sequence analysis and primer extension experiments with two M. agalactiae clonal isolates showed that a specific 182-bp avg 5′ upstream region (avg-B2) that is present as a single chromosomal copy serves as an active promoter and exhibits a high level of homology with the vsp promoter of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. PCR analysis showed that each avg gene is associated with the avg-B2 promoter in a subpopulation of cells that is present in each subclone. Multiple sequence-specific sites for DNA recombination (vis-like), which are presumably recognized by site-specific recombinase, were identified within the conserved avg 5′ upstream regions of all avg genes and were found to be identical to the recombination sites of the M. bovis vsp locus. In addition, a gene encoding a member of the integrase family of tyrosine site-specific recombinases was identified adjacent to the variable avg locus. The molecular genetic basis for avg phase-variable expression appears to be mediated by site-specific DNA inversions occurring in vivo that allow activation of a silent avg gene by promoter addition. A model for the control of avg genes is proposed.
Mycoplasma agalactiae is an important pathogen of small ruminants, in which it causes contagious agalactia. It belongs to a large group of “minimal bacteria” with a small genome and reduced metabolic capacities that are dependent on their host for nutrients. Mycoplasma survival thus relies on intimate contact with host cells, but little is known about the factors involved in these interactions or in the more general infectious process. To address this issue, an assay based on goat epithelial and fibroblastic cells was used to screen a M. agalactiae knockout mutant library. Mutants with reduced growth capacities in cell culture were selected and 62 genomic loci were identified as contributing to this phenotype. As expected for minimal bacteria, “transport and metabolism” was the functional category most commonly implicated in this phenotype, but 50% of the selected mutants were disrupted in coding sequences (CDSs) with unknown functions, with surface lipoproteins being most commonly represented in this category. Since mycoplasmas lack a cell wall, lipoproteins are likely to be important in interactions with the host. A few intergenic regions were also identified that may act as regulatory sequences under co-culture conditions. Interestingly, some mutants mapped to gene clusters that are highly conserved across mycoplasma species but located in different positions. One of these clusters was found in a transcriptionally active region of the M. agalactiae chromosome, downstream of a cryptic promoter. A possible scenario for the evolution of these loci is discussed. Finally, several CDSs identified here are conserved in other important pathogenic mycoplasmas, and some were involved in horizontal gene transfer with phylogenetically distant species. These results provide a basis for further deciphering functions mediating mycoplasma-host interactions.
Mycoplasma bovis, an important pathogen of cattle, was recently shown to possess a family of phase- and size-variable membrane surface lipoprotein antigens (Vsps). These proteins spontaneously undergo noncoordinate phase variation between ON and OFF expression states, generating surface antigenic variation. In the present study, we show that the spontaneously high rate of Vsp phenotypic switching involves DNA rearrangements that occur at high frequency in the M. bovis chromosome. A 1.5-kb HindIII genomic fragment carrying the vspA gene from M. bovis PG45 was cloned and sequenced. The deduced VspA amino acid sequence revealed that 80% of the VspA molecule is composed of reiterated intragenic coding sequences, creating a periodic polypeptide structure. Four distinct internal regions of repetitive sequences in the form of in-tandem blocks extending from the N-terminal to the C-terminal portion of the Vsp product were identified. Southern blot analysis of phenotypically switched isogenic lineages representing ON or OFF phase states of Vsp products suggested that changes in the Vsp expression profile were associated with detectable changes at the DNA level. By using a synthetic oligonucleotide representing a sequence complementary to the repetitive vspA gene region as a probe, we could identify the vspA-bearing restriction fragment undergoing high-frequency reversible rearrangements during oscillating phase transition of vspA. The 1.5-kb HindIII fragment carrying the vspA gene (on state) rearranged and produced a 2.3-kb HindIII fragment (OFF state) and vice versa. Two newly discovered vsp genes (vspE and vspF) were localized on two HindIII fragments flanking the vsp gene upstream and downstream. Southern blot hybridization with vspE- and vspF-specific oligonucleotides as probes against genomic DNA of VspA phase variants showed that the organization and size of the fragments adjacent to the vspA gene remained unchanged during VspA ON-OFF switching. The mechanisms regulating the vsp genes are yet unknown; our findings suggest that a recombinative mechanism possibly involving DNA inversions, DNA insertion, or mobile genetic elements may play a role in generating the observed high-frequency DNA rearrangements.
The bacterium Mycoplasma agalactiae is responsible for contagious agalactia (CA) in small domestic ruminants, a syndrome listed by the World Organization for Animal Health and responsible for severe damage to the dairy industry. Recently, we frequently isolated this pathogen from lung lesions of ibexes during a mortality episode in the French Alps. This situation was unusual in terms of host specificity and tissue tropism, raising the question of M. agalactiae emergence in wildlife. To address this issue, the ibex isolates were characterized using a combination of approaches that included antigenic profiles, molecular typing, optical mapping, and whole-genome sequencing. Genome analyses showed the presence of a new, large prophage containing 35 coding sequences (CDS) that was detected in most but not all ibex strains and has a homolog in Mycoplasma conjunctivae, a species causing keratoconjunctivitis in wild ungulates. This and the presence in all strains of large integrated conjugative elements suggested highly dynamic genomes. Nevertheless, M. agalactiae strains circulating in the ibex population were shown to be highly related, most likely originating from a single parental clone that has also spread to another wild ungulate species of the same geographical area, the chamois. These strains clearly differ from strains described in Europe so far, including those found nearby, before CA eradication a few years ago. While M. agalactiae pathogenicity in ibexes remains unclear, our data showed the emergence of atypical strains in Alpine wild ungulates, raising the question of a role for the wild fauna as a potential reservoir of pathogenic mycoplasmas.
The wall-less mycoplasmas have revealed unusual microbial strategies for adaptive variation of antigenic membrane proteins exposed during their surface colonization of host cells. In particular, high-frequency mutations affecting the expression of selected surface lipoproteins have been increasingly documented for this group of organisms. A novel manifestation of mutational phase variation is shown here to occur in Mycoplasma fermentans, a chronic human infectious agent and possible AIDS-associated pathogen. A putative ABC type transport operon encoding four gene products is identified. The 3' distal gene encoding P78, a known surface-exposed antigen and the proposed substrate-binding lipoprotein of the transporter, is subject to localized hypermutation in a short homopolymeric tract of adenine residues located in the N-terminal coding region of the mature product. High-frequency, reversible insertion/deletion frameshift mutations lead to selective phase variation in P78 expression, whereas the putative nucleotide-binding protein, P63, encoded by the most 5' gene of the operon, is continually expressed. Mutation-based phase variation in specific surface-exposed microbial transporter components may provide an adaptive advantage for immune evasion, while continued expression of other elements of the same transporter may preserve essential metabolic functions and confer alternative substrate specificity. These features could be critical in mycoplasmas, where limitations in both transcriptional regulators and transport systems may prevail. This study also documents that P63 contains an uncharacteristic hydrophobic sequence between predicted nucleotide binding motifs and displays an amphiphilic character in detergent fractionation. Both features are consistent with an evolutionary adaptation favoring integral association of this putative energy-transducing component with the single mycoplasma membrane.
Major lipoprotein antigens, known as variable membrane surface lipoproteins (Vsps), on the surface of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis were shown to spontaneously undergo noncoordinate phase variation between ON and OFF expression states. The high rate of Vsp phenotypic switching was also shown to be linked with DNA rearrangements that occur at high frequency in the M. bovis chromosome (I. Lysnyansky, R. Rosengarten, and D. Yogev, J. Bacteriol. 178:5395–5401, 1996). In the present study, 13 single-copy vsp genes organized in a chromosomal cluster were identified and characterized. All vsp genes encode highly conserved N-terminal domains for membrane insertion and lipoprotein processing but divergent mature Vsp proteins. About 80% of each vsp coding region is composed of reiterated coding sequences that create a periodic polypeptide structure. Eighteen distinct repetitive domains of different lengths and amino acid sequences are distributed within the products of the various vsp genes that are subject to size variation due to spontaneous insertions or deletions of these periodic units. Some of these repeats were found to be present in only one Vsp family member, whereas other repeats recurred at variable locations in several Vsps. Each vsp gene is also 5′ linked to a highly homologous upstream region composed of two internal cassettes. The findings that rearrangement events are associated with Vsp phenotypic switching and that multiple regions of high sequence similarity are present upstream of the vsp genes and within the vsp coding regions suggest that modulation of the Vsp antigenic repertoire is determined by recombination processes that occur at a high frequency within the vsp locus of M. bovis.
Mycoplasmas are minimal bacteria whose genomes barely exceed the smallest amount of information required to sustain autonomous life. Despite this apparent simplicity, several mycoplasmas are successful pathogens of humans and animals, in which they establish intimate interactions with epithelial cells at mucosal surfaces. To identify biological functions mediating mycoplasma interactions with mammalian cells, we produced a library of transposon knockout mutants in the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae and used this library to identify mutants displaying a growth-deficient pheonotype in cell culture. M. agalactiae mutants displaying a 3-fold reduction in CFU titers to nearly complete extinction in coculture with HeLa cells were identified. Mapping of transposon insertion sites revealed 18 genomic regions putatively involved in the interaction of M. agalactiae with HeLa cells. Several of these regions encode proteins with features of membrane lipoproteins and/or were involved in horizontal gene transfer with phylogenetically distant pathogenic mycoplasmas of ruminants. Two mutants with the most extreme phenotype carry a transposon in a genomic region designated the NIF locus which encodes homologues of SufS and SufU, two proteins presumably involved in [Fe-S] cluster biosynthesis in Gram-positive bacteria. Complementation studies confirmed the conditional essentiality of the NIF locus, which was found to be critical for proliferation in the presence of HeLa cells and several other mammalian cell lines but dispensable for axenic growth. While our results raised questions regarding essential functions in mycoplasmas, they also provide a means for studying the role of mycoplasmas as minimal pathogens.
The Xer site-specific recombination system of Escherichia coli is involved in the stable inheritance of circular replicons. Multimeric replicons, produced by homologous recombination, are converted to monomers by the action of two related recombinases XerC and XerD. Site-specific recombination at a locus, dif, within the chromosomal replication terminus region is thought to convert dimeric chromosomes to monomers, which can then be segregated prior to cell division. The recombinases XerC and XerD bind cooperatively to dif, where they catalyse recombination. Chemical modification of specific bases and the phosphate-sugar backbone within dif was used to investigate the requirements for binding of the recombinases. Site-directed mutagenesis was then used to alter bases implicated in recombinase binding. Characterization of these mutants by in vitro recombinase binding and in vivo recombination, has demonstrated that the cooperative interactions between XerC and XerD can partially overcome DNA alterations that should interfere with specific recombinase-dif interactions.
Mycoplasmas are commonly described as the simplest self-replicating organisms, whose evolution was mainly characterized by genome downsizing with a proposed evolutionary scenario similar to that of obligate intracellular bacteria such as insect endosymbionts. Thus far, analysis of mycoplasma genomes indicates a low level of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) implying that DNA acquisition is strongly limited in these minimal bacteria. In this study, the genome of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae was sequenced. Comparative genomic data and phylogenetic tree reconstruction revealed that ∼18% of its small genome (877,438 bp) has undergone HGT with the phylogenetically distinct mycoides cluster, which is composed of significant ruminant pathogens. HGT involves genes often found as clusters, several of which encode lipoproteins that usually play an important role in mycoplasma–host interaction. A decayed form of a conjugative element also described in a member of the mycoides cluster was found in the M. agalactiae genome, suggesting that HGT may have occurred by mobilizing a related genetic element. The possibility of HGT events among other mycoplasmas was evaluated with the available sequenced genomes. Our data indicate marginal levels of HGT among Mycoplasma species except for those described above and, to a lesser extent, for those observed in between the two bird pathogens, M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. This first description of large-scale HGT among mycoplasmas sharing the same ecological niche challenges the generally accepted evolutionary scenario in which gene loss is the main driving force of mycoplasma evolution. The latter clearly differs from that of other bacteria with small genomes, particularly obligate intracellular bacteria that are isolated within host cells. Consequently, mycoplasmas are not only able to subvert complex hosts but presumably have retained sexual competence, a trait that may prevent them from genome stasis and contribute to adaptation to new hosts.
Mycoplasmas are cell wall–lacking prokaryotes that evolved from ancestors common to Gram-positive bacteria by way of massive losses of genetic material. With their minimal genome, mycoplasmas are considered to be the simplest free-living organisms, yet several species are successful pathogens of man and animal. In this study, we challenged the commonly accepted view in which mycoplasma evolution is driven only by genome down-sizing. Indeed, we showed that a significant amount of genes underwent horizontal transfer among different mycoplasma species that share the same ruminant hosts. In these species, the occurrence of a genetic element that can promote DNA transfer via cell-to-cell contact suggests that some mycoplasmas may have retained or acquired sexual competence. Transferred genes were found to encode proteins that are likely to be associated with mycoplasma–host interactions. Sharing genetic resources via horizontal gene transfer may provide mycoplasmas with a means for adapting to new niches or to new hosts and for avoiding irreversible genome erosion.
We developed a new recombinant enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (rELISA) for serodiagnosis of contagious agalactia (CA), a disease caused by Mycoplasma agalactiae in sheep and goats. The assay is based on two M. agalactiae surface proteins, namely, P80 and P55. Identification of these immunodominant and common antigens was accomplished by examining the antibody response elicited in sheep during experimental infection and comparing it to the protein expression profiles of 75 M. agalactiae field strains. Our rELISA was tested with 343 sera, collected from sheep with a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of CA (n = 223) and from healthy animals (n = 120). All sera had previously been tested by Western blotting (WB) for reactivity against M. agalactiae. In addition, our rELISA was compared with a commercial routine ELISA based on inactivated antigens (CHEKiT). Among the 223 samples that were WB positive for M. agalactiae, 209 (93.7%) tested positive for rP80-P55 with our ELISA, whereas only 164 (73.8%) tested positive with the CHEKiT ELISA. Among the 120 samples tested that were WB negative for M. agalactiae, 96.7% were confirmed as negative with our rELISA, while only 75.8% were confirmed as negative with the CHEKiT ELISA. A comparison of the results with receiver operating characteristic curves indicated that the differences observed between our rELISA and the CHEKiT ELISA are statistically significant. The use of recombinant peptides instead of inactivated antigens could significantly improve the discrimination of positive and negative animals, bringing significant advantages in controlling the import/export of live animals and helping in eradication of this economically detrimental disease.
Mycoplasmas are the simplest bacteria capable of autonomous replication. Their evolution proceeded from gram-positive bacteria, with the loss of many biosynthetic pathways and of the cell wall. In this work, the liposoluble protein complement of Mycoplasma agalactiae, a minimal bacterial pathogen causing mastitis, polyarthritis, keratoconjunctivitis, and abortion in small ruminants, was subjected to systematic characterization in order to gain insights into its membrane proteome composition.
The selective enrichment for M. agalactiae PG2T liposoluble proteins was accomplished by means of Triton X-114 fractionation. Liposoluble proteins were subjected to 2-D PAGE-MS, leading to the identification of 40 unique proteins and to the generation of a reference 2D map of the M. agalactiae liposoluble proteome. Liposoluble proteins from the type strain PG2 and two field isolates were then compared by means of 2D DIGE, revealing reproducible differences in protein expression among isolates. An in-depth analysis was then performed by GeLC-MS/MS in order to achieve a higher coverage of the liposoluble proteome. Using this approach, a total of 194 unique proteins were identified, corresponding to 26% of all M. agalactiae PG2T genes. A gene ontology analysis and classification for localization and function was also carried out on all protein identifications. Interestingly, the 11.5% of expressed membrane proteins derived from putative horizontal gene transfer events.
This study led to the in-depth systematic characterization of the M. agalactiae liposoluble protein component, providing useful insights into its membrane organization.
Mycoplasma fermentans, a wall-less prokaryote, is currently under investigation as a potential human pathogen. Recently, several surface lipoproteins have been shown to vary in expression between M. fermentans strains. Using specific antibodies to these lipoproteins, we investigated the extent and nature of antigenic variation within this species. Immunoscreening of type strain PG18 agar-grown colonies revealed marked heterogeneity in expression of distinct surface lipoproteins. Subsequent isolation and propagation of clonal isolates established isogenic lineages which displayed high-frequency (10(-2) to 10(-5) per generation) antigenic phase variation. [35S]cysteine-labeled protein profiles and Western immunoblots of phase-variant clones showed that several distinct integral membrane proteins undergo noncoordinate variation in expression. In addition to differential expression of epitope-bearing lipoproteins, differential accessibility of epitopes to antibodies was also documented as a mechanism generating surface phenotypic variation. Examination of one strain-variant antigen showed high-frequency phase variation to underlie previously observed antigenic differences between strains of this species. Thus, M. fermentans has a complex system capable of creating rapid changes in surface mosaics. This may profoundly affect mycoplasma-host interactions and may limit the methods by which populations of M. fermentans may be studied in vivo.
Mycoplasma agalactiae is the main cause of contagious agalactia, a serious disease of sheep and goats, which has major clinical and economic impacts. Previous studies of M. agalactiae have shown it to be unusually homogeneous and there are currently no available epidemiological techniques which enable a high degree of strain differentiation.
We have developed variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis using the sequenced genome of the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. The PG2 genome was found to be replete with tandem repeat sequences and 4 were chosen for further analysis. VNTR 5 was located within the hypothetical protein MAG6170 a predicted lipoprotein. VNTR 14 was intergenic between the hypothetical protein MAG3350 and the hypothetical protein MAG3340. VNTR 17 was intergenic between the hypothetical protein MAG4060 and the hypothetical protein MAG4070 and VNTR 19 spanned the 5' end of the pseudogene for a lipoprotein MAG4310 and the 3' end of the hypothetical lipoprotein MAG4320.
We have investigated the genetic diversity of 88 M. agalactiae isolates of wide geographic origin using VNTR analysis and compared it with pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis. Simpson's index of diversity was calculated to be 0.324 for PFGE and 0.574 for VNTR analysis. VNTR analysis revealed unexpected diversity within M. agalactiae with 9 different VNTR types discovered. Some correlation was found between geographical origin and the VNTR type of the isolates.
VNTR analysis represents a useful, rapid first-line test for use in molecular epidemiological analysis of M. agalactiae for outbreak tracing and control.
As a first step toward the design of an epitope vaccine to prevent contagious agalactia, the strongly immunogenic 55-kDa protein of Mycoplasma agalactiae was studied and found to correspond to the AvgC protein encoded by the avgC gene. The avg genes of M. agalactiae, which encode four variable surface lipoproteins, display a significant homology to the vsp (variable membrane surface lipoproteins) genes of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis at their promoter region as well as their N-terminus-encoding regions. Some members of the Vsp family are known to be involved in cytoadhesion to host cells. In order to localize immunogenic peptides in the AvgC antigen, the protein sequence was submitted to epitope prediction analysis, and five sets of overlapping peptides, corresponding to five selected regions, were synthesized by Spot synthesis. Reactive peptides were selected by immunobinding assay with sera from infected sheep. The three most immunogenic epitopes were shown to be surface exposed by immunoprecipitation assays, and one of these was specifically recognized by all tested sera. Our study indicates that selected epitopes of the AvgC lipoprotein may be used to develop a peptide-based vaccine which is effective against M. agalactiae infection.
Phase variation of two loci (‘mba locus’ and ‘UU172 phase-variable element’) in Ureaplasma parvum serovar 3 has been suggested as result of site-specific DNA inversion occurring at short inverted repeats. Three potential tyrosine recombinases (RipX, XerC, and CodV encoded by the genes UU145, UU222, and UU529) have been annotated in the genome of U. parvum serovar 3, which could be mediators in the proposed recombination event. We document that only orthologs of the gene xerC are present in all strains that show phase variation in the two loci. We demonstrate in vitro binding of recombinant maltose-binding protein fusions of XerC to the inverted repeats of the phase-variable loci, of RipX to a direct repeat that flanks a 20-kbp region, which has been proposed as putative pathogenicity island, and of CodV to a putative dif site. Co-transformation of the model organism Mycoplasma pneumoniae M129 with both the ‘mba locus’ and the recombinase gene xerC behind an active promoter region resulted in DNA inversion in the ‘mba locus’. Results suggest that XerC of U. parvum serovar 3 is a mediator in the proposed DNA inversion event of the two phase-variable loci.
Ureaplasma; tyrosine recombinase; protein–DNA interaction; electrophoretic mobility shift assay; phase variation; dif site
In the model organism E. coli, recombination mediated by the related XerC and XerD recombinases complexed with the FtsK translocase at specialized dif sites, resolves dimeric chromosomes into free monomers to allow efficient chromosome segregation at cell division. Computational genome analysis of Helicobacter pylori, a slow growing gastric pathogen, identified just one chromosomal xer gene (xerH) and its cognate dif site (difH). Here we show that recombination between directly repeated difH sites requires XerH, FtsK but not XerT, the TnPZ transposon associated recombinase. xerH inactivation was not lethal, but resulted in increased DNA per cell, suggesting defective chromosome segregation. The xerH mutant also failed to colonize mice, and was more susceptible to UV and ciprofloxacin, which induce DNA breakage, and thereby recombination and chromosome dimer formation. xerH inactivation and overexpression each led to a DNA segregation defect, suggesting a role for Xer recombination in regulation of replication. In addition to chromosome dimer resolution and based on the absence of genes for topoisomerase IV (parC, parE) in H. pylori, we speculate that XerH may contribute to chromosome decatenation, although possible involvement of H. pylori's DNA gyrase and topoisomerase III homologue are also considered. Further analyses of this system should contribute to general understanding of and possibly therapy development for H. pylori, which causes peptic ulcers and gastric cancer; for the closely related, diarrheagenic Campylobacter species; and for unrelated slow growing pathogens that lack topoisomerase IV, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
We have recently reported that three distinct size- and phase-variable surface lipoproteins (Vsps) of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis possess a common epitope recognized by monoclonal antibody 1E5. In the present study, we show that this epitope is also present on a size-variant protein (PvpA) of the avian pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum. Application of monoclonal antibody 1E5 in Western immunoblot analysis of Triton X-114 phase-fractionated proteins and in colony immunoblots, as well as in trypsin and carboxypeptidase digestion experiments, has demonstrated that (i) PvpA is an integral membrane protein with a free C terminus, (ii) the shared epitope is surface exposed, and (iii) PvpA is subjected to high-frequency phase variation in expression. By using serum antibodies from M. gallisepticum-infected chickens, we were able to demonstrate the immunogenic nature of PvpA and identify three additional highly immunogenic Triton X-114 phase proteins (p67, p72, and p75) also undergoing high-frequency phase variation spontaneously and independently. Metabolic labeling experiments with [14C]palmitate and [14C]oleate revealed that PvpA, in contrast to p67, p72, and p75, is not lipid modified. Southern blot hybridization with restriction fragments carrying the pvpA gene of M. gallisepticum or the vspA gene of M. bovis against digested genomic DNA of the two Mycoplasma species indicated the absence of genetic relatedness between the pvpA and vspA genes. The apparent complexity of the antigenic variation phenomenon in M. gallisepticum is discussed.
Variation in Vlp surface proteins of Mycoplasma hyorhinis was evaluated in terms of its role in determining susceptibility of organisms to growth inhibition by host antibodies (Abs). High-frequency switching of Vlp surface lipoproteins has been studied in isogenic lineages of M. hyorhinis SK76. In these lineages, the products of three genes, vlpA, vlpB, and vlpC, are subject to phase and size variation in vitro, which occur through distinct mutator elements that independently govern the expression of each vlp gene (promoter mutations) or the size of the vlp gene product (by intragenic expansion or contraction of a 3' region containing tandem repeats). Isogenic clonal variants of M. hyorhinis SK76 expressing distinct profiles of Vlp products were assessed for their susceptibility to complement-independent growth inhibition by serum Abs of swine experimentally infected with the arthritigenic SK76 strain. Invariably, variants expressing longer versions of VlpA, VlpB, or VlpC (each expressed individually) were completely resistant to host immune serum Abs, whereas variants expressing shorter allelic versions of each Vlp were susceptible. The target of growth-inhibiting Abs was not the Vlp products, since removal of anti-Vlp Abs had no effect on the inhibitory activity of the host immune serum on susceptible variants. Escape variant populations derived by propagating susceptible variants in an immune (versus control) host serum revealed a strong selection for the long-Vlp phenotype, irrespective of the identity of the Vlp expressed. Apparent mutational pathways of acquiring the protective phenotype included mutational switches to express long vlp genes that had been transcriptionally silent or switches to elongate expressed vlp genes. These results suggest that a major function of the Vlp system is to shield the wall-less mycoplasma surface from host Abs capable of binding vital (and as-yet-unidentified) surface antigens of this organism.
The gene for a 30-kDa immunodominant antigen, P30, of Mycoplasma agalactiae was cloned from type strain PG2 and expressed in Escherichia coli. P30 is encoded on a monocistronic operon determined by two −10 boxes and a possible −35 region constituting the potential promoter, and a transcription termination site. The gene for the 266-amino-acid protein is preceded by a polypurine-rich region designed as the consensus sequence for a ribosome-binding site. Analysis of the amino acid sequence of P30 revealed the presence of a recognition site for a prokaryotic signal peptidase II at amino acid (aa) 24, indicating that P30 is a transmembrane protein. Moreover, Triton X-114 phase partitioning of M. agalactiae PG2 total antigen revealed that P30 is strongly hydrophobic and hence a possible membrane component. Immunoblot analysis using the monospecific polyclonal anti-P30-His serum indicated that P30 is specific to M. agalactiae. Furthermore, PCR amplification with specific primers for p30 and Southern blot analysis revealed the presence of the gene in all M. agalactiae strains tested and its absence in the other mycoplasma species. Among 27 strains of M. agalactiae studied, 20 strains belonging to the common serotypes A to D, including PG2, expressed P30 or part of it as detected by the monospecific polyclonal anti-P30 antibodies. The other seven strains belonging to the rarely isolated serotypes E to H were negative for P30. The p30 gene was sequenced in 15 strains of M. agalactiae, 10 of which expressed P30 or at least part of it and 5 of which did not express P30. The negative strains carried mutations in both −10 boxes of the promoters. These mutations seem to be responsible for the lack of P30 expression in these strains. Analysis of sera from sheep that were experimentally infected with M. agalactiae revealed that P30 induced a strong and persistent immune response which was still very high two months after infection. In contrast, currently used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay serology gave only low titers.
The phylogenetically related Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides biotype Large Colony are two small-ruminant pathogens involved in contagious agalactia. Their respective contributions to clinical outbreaks are not well documented, because they are difficult to differentiate with the current diagnostic techniques. In order to identify DNA sequences specific to one taxon or the other, a suppression-subtractive hybridization approach was developed. DNA fragments resulting from the reciprocal subtraction of the type strains were used as probes on a panel of M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides biotype Large Colony strains to assess their intrataxon specificity. Due to a high intrataxon polymorphism and important cross-reactions between taxa, a single DNA fragment was shown to be specific for M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and to be present in all M. capricolum subsp. capricolum field isolates tested in this study. A PCR assay targeting the corresponding gene (simpA51) was designed that resulted in a 560-bp amplification only in M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and in M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae (the etiological agent of contagious caprine pleuropneumonia). simpA51 was further improved to generate a multiplex PCR (multA51) that allows the differentiation of M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae from M. capricolum subsp. capricolum. Both the simpA51 and multA51 assays accurately identify M. capricolum subsp. capricolum among other mycoplasmas, including all members of the M. mycoides cluster. simpA51 and multA51 PCRs are proposed as sensitive and robust tools for the specific identification of M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae.