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1.  Splitting of a Prevalent Mycobacterium bovis Spoligotype by Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat Typing Reveals High Heterogeneity in an Evolving Clonal Group 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(11):3658-3665.
Mycobacterium bovis populations in countries with persistent bovine tuberculosis usually show a prevalent spoligotype with a wide geographical distribution. This study applied mycobacterial interspersed repetitive-unit–variable-number tandem-repeat (MIRU-VNTR) typing to a random panel of 115 M. bovis isolates that are representative of the most frequent spoligotype in the Iberian Peninsula, SB0121. VNTR typing targeted nine loci: ETR-A (alias VNTR2165), ETR-B (VNTR2461), ETR-D (MIRU4, VNTR580), ETR-E (MIRU31, VNTR3192), MIRU26 (VNTR2996), QUB11a (VNTR2163a), QUB11b (VNTR2163b), QUB26 (VNTR4052), and QUB3232 (VNTR3232). We found a high degree of diversity among the studied isolates (discriminatory index [D] = 0.9856), which were split into 65 different MIRU-VNTR types. An alternative short-format MIRU-VNTR typing targeting only the four loci with the highest variability values was found to offer an equivalent discriminatory index. Minimum spanning trees using the MIRU-VNTR data showed the hypothetical evolution of an apparent clonal group. MIRU-VNTR analysis was also applied to the isolates of 176 animals from 15 farms infected by M. bovis SB0121; in 10 farms, the analysis revealed the coexistence of two to five different MIRU types differing in one to six loci, which highlights the frequency of undetected heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC3889748  PMID: 23985914
2.  Unexpected genetic diversity of Mycoplasma agalactiae caprine isolates from an endemic geographically restricted area of Spain 
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.
PMCID: PMC3514313  PMID: 22920649
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Molecular typing; Contagious agalactia; Goats
3.  Mycobacterial Interspersed Repetitive-Unit–Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat (MIRU-VNTR) Genotyping of Mycobacterium intracellulare for Strain Comparison with Establishment of a PCR-Based Database 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(2):409-416.
Strain comparison is important to population genetics and to evaluate relapses in patients with Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) lung disease, but the “gold standard” of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) is time-consuming and complex. We used variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR) for fingerprinting of respiratory isolates of M. intracellulare from patients with underlying bronchiectasis, to establish a nonsequence-based database for population analysis. Different genotypes identified by PFGE underwent species identification using a 16S rRNA gene multiplex PCR. Genotypes of M. intracellulare were confirmed by internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) sequencing and characterized using seven VNTR primers. The pattern of VNTR amplicon sizes and repeat number defined each specific VNTR type. Forty-two VNTR types were identified among 84 genotypes. PFGE revealed most isolates with the same VNTR type to be clonal or exhibit similar grouping of bands. Repetitive sequence-based PCR (rep-PCR) showed minimal pattern diversity between VNTR types compared to PFGE. Fingerprinting of relapse isolates from 31 treated patients using VNTR combined with 16S multiplex PCR unambiguously and reliably distinguished different genotypes from the same patient, with results comparable to those of PFGE. VNTR for strain comparison is easier and faster than PFGE, is as accurate as PFGE, and does not require sequencing. Starting with a collection of 167 M. intracellulare isolates, VNTR distinguished M. intracellulare into 42 clonal groups. Comparison of isolates from different geographic areas, habitats, and clinical settings is now possible.
PMCID: PMC3553894  PMID: 23175249
4.  A multi locus variable number of tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) scheme for Streptococcus agalactiae genotyping 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:171.
Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) is currently the reference method for genotyping Streptococcus agalactiae strains, the leading cause of infectious disease in newborns and a major cause of disease in immunocompromised children and adults. We describe here a genotyping method based on multiple locus variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis (MLVA) applied to a population of S. agalactiae strains of various origins characterized by MLST and serotyping.
We studied a collection of 186 strains isolated from humans and cattle and three reference strains (A909, NEM316 and 2603 V/R). Among 34 VNTRs, 6 polymorphic VNTRs loci were selected for use in genotyping of the bacterial population. The MLVA profile consists of a series of allele numbers, corresponding to the number of repeats at each VNTR locus. 98 MLVA genotypes were obtained compared to 51 sequences types generated by MLST. The MLVA scheme generated clusters which corresponded well to the main clonal complexes obtained by MLST. However it provided a higher discriminatory power. The diversity index obtained with MLVA was 0.960 compared to 0.881 with MLST for this population of strains.
The MLVA scheme proposed here is a rapid, cheap and easy genotyping method generating results suitable for exchange and comparison between different laboratories and for the epidemiologic surveillance of S. agalactiae and analyses of outbreaks.
PMCID: PMC3163538  PMID: 21794143
5.  Genetic Diversity of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis Beijing Family Based on SNP and VNTR Typing Profiles in Asian Countries 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39792.
The Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) Beijing strain is highly virulent, drug resistant, and endemic over Asia. To explore the genetic diversity of this family in several different regions of eastern Asia, 338 Beijing strains collected in Taiwan (Republic of China) were analyzed by mycobacterial interspersed repetitive unit-variable number tandem repeat (MIRU-VNTR) typing and compared with published MIRU-VNTR profiles and by the Hunter-Gaston diversity index (HGDI) of Beijing strains from Japan and South Korea. The results revealed that VNTR2163b (HGDI>0.6) and five other loci (VNTR424, VNTR4052, VNTR1955, VNTR4156 and VNTR 2996; HGDI>0.3) could be used to discriminate the Beijing strains in a given geographic region. Analysis based on the number of VNTR repeats showed three VNTRs (VNTR424, 3192, and 1955) to be phylogenetically informative loci. In addition, to determine the geographic variation of sequence types in MTB populations, we also compared sequence type (ST) data of our strains with published ST profiles of Beijing strains from Japan and Thailand. ST10, ST22, and ST19 were found to be prevalent in Taiwan (82%) and Thailand (92%). Furthermore, classification of Beijing sublineages as ancient or modern in Taiwan was found to depend on the repeat number of VNTR424. Finally, phylogenetic relationships of MTB isolates in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were revealed by a minimum spanning tree based on MIRU-VNTR genotyping. In this topology, the MIRU-VNTR genotypes of the respective clusters were tightly correlated to other genotypic characters. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that clonal evolution of these MTB lineages has occurred.
PMCID: PMC3395628  PMID: 22808061
6.  Mycoplasma agalactiae MAG_5040 is a Mg2+-Dependent, Sugar-Nonspecific SNase Recognised by the Host Humoral Response during Natural Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57775.
In this study the enzymatic activity of Mycoplasma agalactiae MAG_5040, a magnesium-dependent nuclease homologue to the staphylococcal SNase was characterized and its antigenicity during natural infections was established. A UGA corrected version of MAG_5040, lacking the region encoding the signal peptide, was expressed in Escherichia coli as a GST fusion protein. Recombinant GST-MAG_5040 exhibits nuclease activity similar to typical sugar-nonspecific endo- and exonucleases, with DNA as the preferred substrate and optimal activity in the presence of 20 mM MgCl2 at temperatures ranging from 37 to 45°C. According to in silico analyses, the position of the gene encoding MAG_5040 is consistently located upstream an ABC transporter, in most sequenced mycoplasmas belonging to the Mycoplasma hominis group. In M. agalactiae, MAG_5040 is transcribed in a polycistronic RNA together with the ABC transporter components and with MAG_5030, which is predicted to be a sugar solute binding protein by 3D modeling and homology search. In a natural model of sheep and goats infection, anti-MAG_5040 antibodies were detected up to 9 months post infection. Taking into account its enzymatic activity, MAG_5040 could play a key role in Mycoplasma agalactiae survival into the host, contributing to host pathogenicity. The identification of MAG_5040 opens new perspectives for the development of suitable tools for the control of contagious agalactia in small ruminants.
PMCID: PMC3585158  PMID: 23469065
7.  Synchronous Comparison of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Epidemiology Strains by “MIRU-VNTR” and “MIRU-VNTR and Spoligotyping” Technique 
Molecular epidemiology analyses are frequently used in determining epidemiology of tuberculosis. Recently, Mycobacterial Interspersed Repetitive Unit Variable Number Tandem Repeat (MIRU-VNTR) and Spoligotyping has become an important method, as it allows high-through put, discriminatory and reproducible analysis of clinical isolate. The purpose of this study is to compare techniques of “MIRU-VNTR” versus “MIRU-VNTR and Spoligotyping” together for study of genetic pattern of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) strains. Sixty M. tuberculosis (MTB) isolates were selected (30 susceptible, 30 multi-drug resistant) for this study. Thereafter, the “MIRU-VNTR and Spoligotyping” were performed to identify their genetic patterns. The frequency of unknown genetic pattern of MTB was compared using technique of “MIRU-VNTR” alone versus “MIRU-VNTR and Spoligotyping” together. The MIRU-VNTR allelic diversity at each of the loci was calculated by Hunter – Gaston Discriminatory Index (HGDI). Based on differentiation index of all strains 10, 16, 26, 31 and 40 loci were identified as the most distinctive (HGI ≥0.6) and 2, 4, 20 and 24 as the weakest distinctive locus (HGI ≤0.3). By using MIRU-VNTR technique 38% (n = 23) of isolates could not be typed, whereas by applying “MIRU-VNTR and Spoligotyping” together only 15% (n = 9) of isolates remained unknown (p = 0.004). For sensitive strains, the difference was significant (67% vs. 90%, p = 0.028), but only marginally significant for drug resistant strains (57% vs. 80%, p = 0.052). The discrimination power of 12-locus MIRU-VNTR and Spoligotyping was equal to that of MIRU-VNTR analysis. If appropriate loci are added to the standard MIRU analysis, MIRU-VNTR genotyping could be a valuable tool for strain typing and epidemiological research of M. tuberculosis. With this approach a more clear understanding about genetic pattern of MTB can be achieved.
PMCID: PMC3558156  PMID: 23408229
Alleles; Genetic Loci; Molecular epidemiology; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Restriction fragment length polymorphism
8.  Development of Multiple-Locus Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat Analysis for Molecular Typing of Mycoplasma pneumoniae▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(4):914-923.
In this study we report on the development of a multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) analysis (MLVA) method for the molecular typing of Mycoplasma pneumoniae. The genomic content of M. pneumoniae M129 was analyzed for VNTRs, and 5 of the 17 VNTRs identified were selected for use in an MLVA assay. The method was based on a GeneScan analysis of VNTR loci labeled with fluorescent dyes by multiplex PCR and capillary electrophoresis. This approach was applied to a collection of 265 isolates from various European countries, Japan, and Tunisia; and 26 distinct VNTR types were found. The VNTR assay was compared to the P1 adhesin PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) typing method and showed a far better resolution than the P1 PCR-RFLP method. The discriminatory power of MLVA (Hunter-Gaston diversity index [HGDI], 0.915) for the 265 isolates was significantly higher than that of the P1 PCR-RFLP method (HGDI, 0.511). However, there was a correlation between the typing results obtained by MLVA and the P1 gene PCR-RFLP method. The potential value of MLVA of M. pneumoniae as an epidemiological tool is discussed, and the use of the VNTR markers in further investigations of the potential use of MLVA in outbreaks of M. pneumoniae infections is proposed.
PMCID: PMC2668363  PMID: 19204097
9.  Multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis for molecular typing and phylogenetic analysis of Shigella flexneri 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:278.
Shigella flexneri is one of the causative agents of shigellosis, a major cause of childhood mortality in developing countries. Multilocus variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis (MLVA) is a prominent subtyping method to resolve closely related bacterial isolates for investigation of disease outbreaks and provide information for establishing phylogenetic patterns among isolates. The present study aimed to develop an MLVA method for S. flexneri and the VNTR loci identified were tested on 242 S. flexneri isolates to evaluate their variability in various serotypes. The isolates were also analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to compare the discriminatory power and to evaluate the usefulness of MLVA as a tool for phylogenetic analysis of S. flexneri.
Thirty-six VNTR loci were identified by exploring the repeat sequence loci in genomic sequences of Shigella species and by testing the loci on nine isolates of different subserotypes. The VNTR loci in different serotype groups differed greatly in their variability. The discriminatory power of an MLVA assay based on four most variable VNTR loci was higher, though not significantly, than PFGE for the total isolates, a panel of 2a isolates, which were relatively diverse, and a panel of 4a/Y isolates, which were closely-related. Phylogenetic groupings based on PFGE patterns and MLVA profiles were considerably concordant. The genetic relationships among the isolates were correlated with serotypes. The phylogenetic trees constructed using PFGE patterns and MLVA profiles presented two distinct clusters for the isolates of serotype 3 and one distinct cluster for each of the serotype groups, 1a/1b/NT, 2a/2b/X/NT, 4a/Y, and 6. Isolates that had different serotypes but had closer genetic relatedness than those with the same serotype were observed between serotype Y and subserotype 4a, serotype X and subserotype 2b, subserotype 1a and 1b, and subserotype 3a and 3b.
The 36 VNTR loci identified exhibited considerably different degrees of variability among S. flexneri serotype groups. VNTR locus could be highly variable in a serotype but invariable in others. MLVA assay based on four highly variable loci could display a comparable resolving power to PFGE in discriminating isolates. MLVA is also a prominent molecular tool for phylogenetic analysis of S. flexneri; the resulting data are beneficial to establish clear clonal patterns among different serotype groups and to discern clonal groups among isolates within the same serotype. As highly variable VNTR loci could be serotype-specific, a common MLVA protocol that consists of only a small set of loci, for example four to eight loci, and that provides high resolving power to all S. flexneri serotypes may not be obtainable.
PMCID: PMC2806262  PMID: 20042119
10.  Worldwide Genetic Relationships among Francisella tularensis Isolates Determined by Multiple-Locus Variable-Number Tandem Repeat Analysis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(17):5808-5818.
The intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis is the causative agent of tularemia and poses a serious threat as an agent of bioterrorism. We have developed a highly effective molecular subtyping system from 25 variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) loci. In our study, multiple-locus VNTR analysis (MLVA) was used to analyze genetic relationships and potential population structure within a global collection of 192 F. tularensis isolates, including representatives from each of the four subspecies. The VNTR loci displayed between 2 and 31 alleles with Nei's diversity values between 0.05 and 0.95. Neighbor-joining cluster analysis of VNTR data revealed 120 genotypes among the 192 F. tularensis isolates, including accurate subspecies identification. F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (type A) isolates showed great diversity at VNTR loci, while F. tularensis subsp. holarctica (type B) isolates showed much lower levels despite a much broader geographical prevalence. The resolution of two distinct clades within F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (designated A.I and A.II) revealed a previously unrecognized genetic division within this highly virulent subspecies. F. tularensis subsp. holarctica appears to have recently spread globally across continents from a single origin, while F. tularensis subsp. tularensis has a long and complex evolutionary history almost exclusively in North America. The sole non-North American type A isolates (Slovakian) were closely related to the SCHU S4 strain. Significant linkage disequilibrium was detected among VNTR loci of F. tularensis consistent with a clonal population structure. Overall, this work greatly augments the study of tularemia ecology and epidemiology, while providing a framework for future forensic analysis of F. tularensis isolates.
PMCID: PMC516809  PMID: 15317786
11.  Development of a Hierarchical Variable-Number Tandem Repeat Typing Scheme for Mycobacterium tuberculosis in China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89726.
Molecular typing based on variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR) analysis is a promising tool for identifying transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, the currently proposed 15- and 24-locus VNTR sets (VNTR-15/24) only have limited resolution and contain too many loci for large-scale typing in high burden countries. To develop an optimal typing scheme in China, we evaluated the resolution and robustness of 25 VNTR loci, using population-based collections of 1362 clinical isolates from six provinces across the country. The resolution of most loci showed considerable variations among regions. By calculating the average resolution of all possible combinations of 20 robust loci, we identified an optimal locus set with a minimum of 9 loci (VNTR-9) that could achieve comparable resolution of the standard VNTR-15. The VNTR-9 had consistently high resolutions in all six regions, and it was highly concordant with VNTR-15 for defining both clustered and unique genotypes. Furthermore, VNTR-9 was phylogenetically informative for classifying lineages/sublineages of M. tuberculosis. Three hypervariable loci (HV-3), VNTR 3232, VNTR 3820 and VNTR 4120, were proved important for further differentiating unrelated clustered strains based on VNTR-9. We propose the optimized VNTR-9 as first-line method and the HV-3 as second-line method for molecular typing of M. tuberculosis in China and surrounding countries. The development of hierarchical VNTR typing methods that can achieve high resolution with a small number of loci could be suitable for molecular epidemiology study in other high burden countries.
PMCID: PMC3934936  PMID: 24586989
12.  Tandem repeat regions within the Burkholderia pseudomallei genome and their application for high resolution genotyping 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:23.
The facultative, intracellular bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent of melioidosis, a serious infectious disease of humans and animals. We identified and categorized tandem repeat arrays and their distribution throughout the genome of B. pseudomallei strain K96243 in order to develop a genetic typing method for B. pseudomallei. We then screened 104 of the potentially polymorphic loci across a diverse panel of 31 isolates including B. pseudomallei, B. mallei and B. thailandensis in order to identify loci with varying degrees of polymorphism. A subset of these tandem repeat arrays were subsequently developed into a multiple-locus VNTR analysis to examine 66 B. pseudomallei and 21 B. mallei isolates from around the world, as well as 95 lineages from a serial transfer experiment encompassing ~18,000 generations.
B. pseudomallei contains a preponderance of tandem repeat loci throughout its genome, many of which are duplicated elsewhere in the genome. The majority of these loci are composed of repeat motif lengths of 6 to 9 bp with 4 to 10 repeat units and are predominately located in intergenic regions of the genome. Across geographically diverse B. pseudomallei and B.mallei isolates, the 32 VNTR loci displayed between 7 and 28 alleles, with Nei's diversity values ranging from 0.47 and 0.94. Mutation rates for these loci are comparable (>10-5 per locus per generation) to that of the most diverse tandemly repeated regions found in other less diverse bacteria.
The frequency, location and duplicate nature of tandemly repeated regions within the B. pseudomallei genome indicate that these tandem repeat regions may play a role in generating and maintaining adaptive genomic variation. Multiple-locus VNTR analysis revealed extensive diversity within the global isolate set containing B. pseudomallei and B. mallei, and it detected genotypic differences within clonal lineages of both species that were identical using previous typing methods. Given the health threat to humans and livestock and the potential for B. pseudomallei to be released intentionally, MLVA could prove to be an important tool for fine-scale epidemiological or forensic tracking of this increasingly important environmental pathogen.
PMCID: PMC1853098  PMID: 17397553
13.  Development of Variable-Number Tandem Repeat Typing of Mycobacterium bovis: Comparison of Results with Those Obtained by Using Existing Exact Tandem Repeats and Spoligotyping 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(6):2126-2133.
Various genetic markers have been exploited for fingerprinting the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) in molecular epidemiological studies, mainly through identifying restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP). In large-scale studies, RFLP typing has practical processing and analysis limitations; therefore, attempts have been made to move towards PCR-based typing techniques. Spoligotyping (spacer oligotyping) and, more recently, variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) typing have provided PCR-derived typing techniques. This study describes the identification and characterization of novel VNTR loci, consisting of tandem repeats in the size range of 53 to 59 bp in the MTBC, and their assessment as typing tools in 47 Mycobacterium bovis field isolates and nine MTBC strains. Spoligotyping and the previously described set of exact tandem repeats (ETRs) (R. Frothingham and W. A. Meeker-O'Connell, Microbiology 144:1189-1196, 1998) were also applied to the same panel of isolates. The allelic diversity of the individual VNTR loci was calculated, and a comparison of the novel VNTRs was made against the results obtained by spoligotyping and the existing set of ETRs. Eleven unique spoligotypes were discriminated in the panel of 47 M. bovis isolates. Greater resolution was obtained through the combination of the most-discriminating VNTRs from both sets. Considerable discrimination was achieved, with the 47 M. bovis isolates resolved into 14 unique profiles, while all nine MTBC isolates were uniquely differentiated. The novel VNTR markers described increased the discrimination possible in strain typing of M. bovis, with the added benefit of an intuitive digital nomenclature, with the allele copy number of the individual VNTRs providing a profile. VNTR typing was shown to be a valuable technique with great potential for further development and application to epidemiological tracing of tuberculosis transmissions.
PMCID: PMC130792  PMID: 12037076
14.  Use of Mycobacterial Interspersed Repetitive Unit-Variable-Number Tandem Repeat Typing To Examine Genetic Diversity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Singapore 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(5):1986-1993.
Strain typing using variable-number tandem repeats of mycobacterial interspersed repetitive units (MIRU-VNTR) is a powerful tool for studying the epidemiology and genetic relationships of Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates. For this study, isolates from 291 patients in Singapore were genotyped by this method. One hundred sixty-six distinct MIRU-VNTR patterns were detected. One hundred sixty-two strains were grouped into 1 of 35 different MIRU-VNTR clusters and 131 isolates were unique. In this sample collection, 9 of the 12 MIRU-VNTR loci were moderately or highly discriminative according to their allelic diversities. The Hunter-Gaston discriminatory index was 0.975, indicating the high power of discrimination of MIRU-VNTR typing. By direct comparisons with previously typed MIRU-VNTR patterns and by genetic relationship analyses, we could identify and clearly define four epidemic groups of M. tuberculosis in our sample, corresponding to the W/Beijing, East-Africa-Indian, Haarlem, and Delhi genotype families. Furthermore, MIRU-VNTR typing was able to clearly distinguish ancestral and modern M. tuberculosis strains as defined by TbD1 genomic deletion analysis. These results indicate that MIRU-VNTR typing can be a useful first-line tool for studying the genetic diversity of M. tuberculosis isolates in a large urban setting such as Singapore.
PMCID: PMC404681  PMID: 15131159
15.  Inter- and Intra-subtype genotypic differences that differentiate Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis strains 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:264.
Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Map) is the aetiological agent of Johne’s disease or paratuberculosis and is included within the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). Map strains are of two major types often referred to as ‘Sheep’ or ‘S-type’ and ‘Cattle’ or ‘C-type’. With the advent of more discriminatory typing techniques it has been possible to further classify the S-type strains into two groups referred to as Type I and Type III. This study was undertaken to genotype a large panel of S-type small ruminant isolates from different hosts and geographical origins and to compare them with a large panel of well documented C-type isolates to assess the genetic diversity of these strain types. Methods used included Mycobacterial Interspersed Repetitive Units - Variable-Number Tandem Repeat analysis (MIRU-VNTR), analysis of Large Sequence Polymorphisms by PCR (LSP analysis), Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) analysis of gyr genes, Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) and Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism analysis coupled with hybridization to IS900 (IS900-RFLP) analysis.
The presence of LSPA4 and absence of LSPA20 was confirmed in all 24 Map S-type strains analysed. SNPs within the gyr genes divided the S-type strains into types I and III. Twenty four PFGE multiplex profiles and eleven different IS900-RFLP profiles were identified among the S-type isolates, some of them not previously published. Both PFGE and IS900-RFLP segregated the S-type strains into types I and III and the results concurred with those of the gyr SNP analysis. Nine MIRU-VNTR genotypes were identified in these isolates. MIRU-VNTR analysis differentiated Map strains from other members of Mycobacterium avium Complex, and Map S-type from C-type but not type I from III. Pigmented Map isolates were found of type I or III.
This is the largest panel of S-type strains investigated to date. The S-type strains could be further divided into two subtypes, I and III by some of the typing techniques (IS900-RFLP, PFGE and SNP analysis of the gyr genes). MIRU-VNTR did not divide the strains into the subtypes I and III but did detect genetic differences between isolates within each of the subtypes. Pigmentation is not exclusively associated with type I strains.
PMCID: PMC3546927  PMID: 23164429
16.  Molecular, ethno-spatial epidemiology of leprosy in China: Novel insights for tracing leprosy in endemic and non endemic provinces 
Leprosy continues to be detected at near stable rates in China even with established control programs, necessitating new knowledge and alternative methods to interrupt transmission. A molecular epidemiology investigation of 190 patients was undertaken to define M. leprae strain types and discern genetic relationships and clusters in endemic and non-endemic regions spanning seventeen provinces and two autonomous regions. The findings support multiple locus variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis as a useful tool in uncovering characteristic patterns across the multiethnic and divergent geographic landscape of China. Several scenarios of clustering of leprosy from township to provincial to regional levels were recognized, while recent occupational or remote migration showed geographical separation of certain strains. First, prior studies indicated that of the four major M. leprae subtypes defined by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), only type 3 was present in China, purportedly entering from Europe/West/Central Asia via the Silk Road. However, this study revealed VNTR linked strains that are of type 1 in Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi in southern China. Second, a subset of VNTR distinguishable strains of type 3, co-exist in these provinces. Third, type 3 strains with rpoT VNTR allele of 4, detected in Japan and Korea were discovered in Jiangsu and Anhui in the east and in western Sichuan bordering Tibet. Fourth, considering the overall genetic diversity, strains of endemic counties of Qiubei, Yunnan; Xing Yi, Guizhou; and across Sichuan in southwest were related. However, closer inspection showed distinct local strains and clusters. Altogether, these insights, primarily derived from VNTR typing, reveal multiple and overlooked paths for spread of leprosy into, within and out of China and invoke attention to historic maritime routes in the South and East China Sea. More importantly, new concepts and approaches for prospective case finding and tracking of leprosy from county to national level have been introduced.
PMCID: PMC3668695  PMID: 23291419
VNTR; Strain typing; Mycobacterium leprae; Leprosy; Transmission; Phylogeography; SNP typing; Maritime silk routes
17.  Characterization of the variable-number tandem repeats in vrrA from different Bacillus anthracis isolates. 
PCR analysis of 198 Bacillus anthracis isolates revealed a variable region of DNA sequence differing in length among the isolates. Five polymorphisms differed by the presence of two to six copies of the 12-bp tandem repeat 5'-CAATATCAACAA-3'. This variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) region is located within a larger sequence containing one complete open reading frame that encodes a putative 30-kDa protein. Length variation did not change the reading frame of the encoded protein and only changed the copy number of a 4-amino-acid sequence (QYQQ) from 2 to 6. The structure of the VNTR region suggests that these multiple repeats are generated by recombination or polymerase slippage. Protein structures predicted from the reverse-translated DNA sequence suggest that any structural changes in the encoded protein are confined to the region encoded by the VNTR sequence. Copy number differences in the VNTR region were used to define five different B. anthracis alleles. Characterization of 198 isolates revealed allele frequencies of 6.1, 17.7, 59.6, 5.6, and 11.1% sequentially from shorter to longer alleles. The high degree of polymorphism in the VNTR region provides a criterion for assigning isolates to five allelic categories. There is a correlation between categories and geographic distribution. Such molecular markers can be used to monitor the epidemiology of anthrax outbreaks in domestic and native herbivore populations.
PMCID: PMC168435  PMID: 9097438
18.  Effect of the 3'APOB-VNTR polymorphism on the lipid profiles in the Guangxi Hei Yi Zhuang and Han populations 
BMC Medical Genetics  2007;8:45.
Apolipoprotein (Apo) B is the major component of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and chylomicrons. Many genetic polymorphisms of the Apo B have been described, associated with variation of lipid levels. However, very few studies have evaluated the effect of the variable number of tandem repeats region 3' of the Apo B gene (3'APOB-VNTR) polymorphism on the lipid profiles in the special minority subgroups in China. Thus, the present study was undertaken to study the effect of the 3'APOB-VNTR polymorphism on the serum lipid levels in the Guangxi Hei Yi Zhuang and Han populations.
A total of 548 people of Hei Yi Zhuang were surveyed by a stratified randomized cluster sampling. The epidemiological survey was performed using internationally standardized methods. Serum lipid and apolipoprotein levels were measured. The 3'APOB-VNTR alleles were determined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) followed by electrophoresis in polyacrylamide gels, and classified according to the number of repeats of a 15-bp hypervariable elements (HVE). The sequence of the most common allele was determined using the PCR and direct sequencing. The possible association between alleles of the 3'APOB-VNTR and lipid variables was examined. The results were compared with those in 496 people of Han who also live in that district.
Nineteen alleles ranging from 24 to 64 repeats were detected in both Hei Yi Zhuang and Han. HVE56 and HVE58 were not be detected in Hei Yi Zhuang whereas HVE48 and HVE62 were totally absent in Han. The frequencies of HVE26, HVE30, HVE46, heterozygote, and short alleles (< 38 repeats) were higher in Hei Yi Zhuang than in Han. But the frequencies of HVE34, HVE38, HVE40, homozygote, and long alleles (≥ 38 repeats) were lower in Hei Yi Zhuang than in Han (P < 0.05–0.01). The levels of total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and Apo B in Hei Yi Zhuang but not in Han were higher in VNTR-LS (carrier of one long and one short alleles) than in VNTR-LL (the individual carrying two long alleles) genotypes. The levels of TC, triglycerides (TG), LDL cholesterol, and Apo B in Hei Yi Zhuang were higher in both HVE34 and HVE36 alleles than in HVE32 allele. The levels of TC, TG, HDL-C and Apo B in Hei Yi Zhuang were also higher in homozygotes than in heterozygotes. There were no significant differences in the detected lipid parameters between the VNTR-SS (carrier of two short alleles) and VNTR-LS or VNTR-LL genotypes in both ethnic groups.
There were significant differences of the 3'APOB-VNTR polymorphism between the Hei Yi Zhuang and Han populations. An association between the 3'APOB-VNTR polymorphism and serum lipid levels was observed in the Hei Yi Zhuang but not in the Han populations.
PMCID: PMC1939985  PMID: 17640344
19.  Polymorphism of Variable-Number Tandem Repeats at Multiple Loci in Mycobacterium tuberculosis†  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(10):5034-5043.
Genotyping based on variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR) is currently a very promising tool for studying the molecular epidemiology and phylogeny of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Here we investigate the polymorphisms of 48 loci of direct or tandem repeats in M. tuberculosis previously identified by our group. Thirty-nine loci, including nine novel ones, were polymorphic. Ten VNTR loci had high allelic diversity (Nei's diversity indices ≥ 0.6) and subsequently were used as the representative VNTR typing set for comparison to IS6110-based restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) typing. The 10-locus VNTR set, potentially providing >2 × 109 allele combinations, obviously showed discriminating capacity over the IS6110 RFLP method for M. tuberculosis isolates with fewer than six IS6110-hybridized bands, whereas it had a slightly better resolution than IS6110 RFLP for the isolates having more than five IS6110-hybridized bands. Allelic diversity of many VNTR loci varied in each IS6110 RFLP type. Genetic relationships inferred from the 10-VNTR set supported the notion that M. tuberculosis may have evolved from two different lineages (high and low IS6110 copy number). In addition, we found that the lengths of many VNTR loci had statistically significant relationships to each other. These relationships could cause a restriction of the VNTR typing discriminating capability to some extent. Our results suggest that VNTR-PCR typing is practically useful for application to molecular epidemiological and phylogenetic studies of M. tuberculosis. The discriminating power of the VNTR typing system can still be enhanced by the supplementation of more VNTR loci.
PMCID: PMC1248453  PMID: 16207958
20.  Allele distribution and genetic diversity of VNTR loci in Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis isolates from different sources 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:146.
Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) is a zoonotic pathogen, which can be found in many sources including animals and the environment. However, little is known about the molecular relatedness among S. Enteritidis isolates from different sources. We have applied multiple-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) to study the genetic diversity of S. Enteritidis isolates from human and non-human sources.
We identified 38 unique MLVA types using nine VNTR loci markers for discrimination between 145 S. Enteritidis isolates from different sources including humans (n = 41), chickens (n = 45), and eggs (n = 40). There were 20 distinct MLVA types identified from human isolates, 17 distinct MLVA types from chicken isolates, and 5 from egg isolates. We compared allele distribution and frequency for each VNTR marker and measured allelic polymorphism within each VNTR locus of S. Enteritidis isolates from the sources using Nei's diversity index (D). Differences in allele distribution and frequency were detected in most loci of study isolates. Different genetic diversity for certain loci was identified in isolates from different sources. The average of genetic diversity (D) was lower in egg isolates (0.16) compared to human (0.41) and chicken (0.30). However, for loci SE3, SE7, and SE9, human isolates showed significantly higher diversity than both chicken and egg isolates. Whereas for loci SE5 and SE10, chicken isolates had significantly higher diversity than both human and egg isolates. Minimum-spanning tree (MST) comprised one major cluster, a minor cluster, and four clonal expansions. MLVA application enabled a cluster analysis by the MST of the S. Enteritidis isolates by sources, which allows a great insight into the genetic relatedness and the possible flow of these organisms between different reservoirs and humans.
Differences in allele distribution and genetic diversity of VNTR loci in S. Enteritidis isolates from different sources were found. Polymorphism in most of the VNTR loci was more frequent among human S. Enteritidis isolates than isolates from chickens or eggs. Therefore, VNTR profiles of S. Enteritidis isolates from a specific source should be further evaluated as potential markers in epidemiologic investigations to trace S. Enteritidis to their probable source.
PMCID: PMC2561042  PMID: 18793420
21.  Use of Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat Typing To Differentiate Mycobacterium tuberculosis Beijing Family Isolates from Hong Kong and Comparison with IS6110 Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Typing and Spoligotyping 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(1):314-320.
The Mycobacterium tuberculosis Beijing family isolates may cause more than a quarter of all tuberculosis cases worldwide, are emerging in some areas, and are often associated with drug resistance. Early recognition of transmission of this genotype is therefore important. To evaluate the usefulness of variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) typing to discriminate and recognize strains of the Beijing family, M. tuberculosis isolates from Hong Kong were subjected to VNTR analysis, spoligotyping, and IS6110 restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) typing. The allelic diversity of the 14 VNTR loci included in the analysis varied from 0 to 0.618 among Beijing strains. The discriminatory power of VNTR analysis was slightly lower than that of IS6110 RFLP. Our analysis shows that VNTR typing, which has many practical advantages over RFLP typing, can be used for epidemiological studies of Beijing strains. However, VNTR-defined clusters should be subtyped with IS6110 RFLP for maximal resolution.
PMCID: PMC540154  PMID: 15634988
22.  Comparative assessment of two commonly used commercial ELISA tests for the serological diagnosis of contagious agalactia of small ruminants caused by Mycoplasma agalactiae 
Contagious agalactia (CA) of sheep and goats caused by Mycoplasma agalactiae is a widely occurring economically important disease that is difficult to control. The ELISA is commonly used for the serological detection of CA but it has some limitations and the performance of the available tests have not been properly evaluated.
Two commercial ELISA kits are widely used, one involving a fusion protein as target antigen and the other a total antigen. The objectives were to compare these tests by evaluating:
i. Their diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, the relevance of the recommended cut-off points, the correlation between the two tests, and, the correlation between serology data and the milk shedding of M. agalatiae;
ii. The influence of extrinsic factors such as the targeted animal species, geographical origin of the samples, intra-specific variability of M. agalactiae and concurrent mycoplasma infections.
A sample of 5900 animals from 211 farms with continuous CA monitoring for 20 years and no prior vaccination history was used. The infection status was known from prior bacteriological, epidemiological and serological monitoring with a complementary immunoblotting test.
The average diagnostic sensitivity was 56% [51.8–59.8] for the fusion protein ELISA and 84% [81.3–87.2] for the total antigen ELISA, with noteworthy flock-related variations. The average diagnostic specificity for the fusion protein ELISA was 100% [99.9–100], and for the total antigen ELISA differed significantly between goats and sheep: 99.3% [97.4–99.9] and 95.7% [93.8–97.2] respectively.
Experimental inoculations with different M. agalactiae strains revealed that the ELISA kits poorly detected the antibody response to certain strains. Furthermore, test performances varied according to the host species or geographical origin of the samples.
Finally, the correlation between milk shedding of M. agalactiae and the presence of detectable antibodies in the blood was poor.
These serological tests are not interchangeable. The choice of a test will depend on the objectives (early detection of infection or disease control program), on the prevalence of infection and the control protocol used. Given the variety of factors that may influence performance, a preliminary assessment of the test in a given situation is recommended prior to widespread use.
PMCID: PMC3439703  PMID: 22776779
23.  Use of Variable-Number Tandem Repeats To Examine Genetic Diversity of Neisseria meningitidis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(4):1699-1705.
Repetitive DNA motifs with potential variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR) were identified in the genome of Neisseria meningitidis and used to develop a typing method. A total of 146 meningococcal isolates recovered from carriers and patients were studied. These included 82 of the 107 N. meningitidis isolates previously used in the development of multilocus sequence typing (MLST), 45 isolates recovered from different counties in Norway in connection with local outbreaks, and 19 serogroup W135 isolates of sequence type 11 (ST-11), which were recovered in several parts of the world. The latter group comprised isolates related to the Hajj outbreak of 2000 and isolates recovered from outbreaks in Burkina Faso in 2001 and 2002. All isolates had been characterized previously by MLST or multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MLEE). VNTR analysis showed that meningococcal isolates with similar MLST or MLEE types recovered from epidemiologically linked cases in a defined geographical area often presented similar VNTR patterns while isolates of the same MLST or MLEE types without an obvious epidemiological link showed variable VNTR patterns. Thus, VNTR analysis may be used for fine typing of meningococcal isolates after MLST or MLEE typing. The method might be especially valuable for differentiating among ST-11 strains, as shown by the VNTR analyses of serogroup W135 ST-11 meningococcal isolates recovered since the mid-1990s.
PMCID: PMC1081323  PMID: 15814988
24.  Features of Variable Number of Tandem Repeats in Yersinia pestis and the Development of a Hierarchical Genotyping Scheme 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66567.
Variable number of tandem repeats (VNTRs) that are widely distributed in the genome of Yersinia pestis proved to be useful markers for the genotyping and source-tracing of this notorious pathogen. In this study, we probed into the features of VNTRs in the Y. pestis genome and developed a simple hierarchical genotyping system based on optimized VNTR loci.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Capillary electrophoresis was used in this study for multi-locus VNTR analysis (MLVA) in 956 Y. pestis strains. The general features and genetic diversities of 88 VNTR loci in Y. pestis were analyzed with BioNumerics, and a “14+12” loci-based hierarchical genotyping system, which is compatible with single nucleotide polymorphism-based phylogenic analysis, was established.
Appropriate selection of target loci reduces the impact of homoplasies caused by the rapid mutation rates of VNTR loci. The optimized “14+12” loci are highly discriminative in genotyping and source-tracing Y. pestis for molecular epidemiological or microbial forensic investigations with less time and lower cost. An MLVA genotyping datasets of representative strains will improve future research on the source-tracing and microevolution of Y. pestis.
PMCID: PMC3689786  PMID: 23805236
25.  Genotyping and clinical characteristics of multidrug and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis in a tertiary care tuberculosis hospital in China 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:315.
There is a lack of information on the clinical characteristics of multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis (TB) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB in the Jiangxi Province of China; furthermore, data have not been reported on the utility of mycobacterial interspersed repetitive-unit-variable-number tandem-repeat (MIRU-VNTR) analyses in genotyping Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains isolated from this region. The aim of this study was to analyse the clinical features of patients with MDR and XDR TB from Jiangxi Province and to evaluate the discriminatory power of the 15-loci MIRU-VNTR method.
A retrospective study was conducted on patients diagnosed with MDR and XDR TB at the Jiangxi Chest Hospital from July 2010 to June 2011. The RD105 deletion-targeted multiplex PCR (DTM-PCR) and the 15-loci MIRU-VNTR method were used to determine the genetic background of the identified MDR and XDR M. tuberculosis clinical isolates.
Of 804 M. tuberculosis clinical isolates, 159 (159/804, 19.8%) of the isolates were identified as MDR with first-line drug susceptibility testing. Of the 123 available MDR isolates, 13 (13/123, 10.6%) were XDR. The RD105 deletion-targeted multiplex PCR method identified 85 (85/110, 77.3%) MDR and 12 (12/13, 92.3%) XDR isolates as the Beijing genotype. MIRU-VNTR cluster analysis demonstrated that 101 MDR and 13 XDR strains had unique genotype patterns; the remaining 9 MDR strains were in 4 clusters, namely 1 cluster with 3 strains and 3 clusters with 2 strains, resulting in a low clustering rate (4.06%). The Hunter-Gaston discriminatory index (HGDI) of the 15-loci MIRU-VNTR method was as high as 0.992. In addition, clinical surveys showed that 87 (87/110, 79.1%) MDR TB patients and 10 (10/13, 76.9%) XDR TB patients had been previously treated. Diabetes mellitus was the most common comorbidity in both MDR TB (16/110, 14.5%) and XDR TB (2/13, 15.4%) patients.
Based on our preliminary data, the MDR and XDR M. tuberculosis clinical isolates identified at the Jiangxi Chest Hospital were genetically diverse and clustered at a low frequency. The 15-loci MIRU-VNTR method showed high discriminatory power and may be used as a first-line genotyping tool in investigating the molecular epidemiology of M. tuberculosis in Jiangxi, China. Decisive measures are urgently needed to effectively prevent and manage MDR and XDR tuberculosis in this province.
PMCID: PMC3716566  PMID: 23849244
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Multidrug-resistant; Extensively drug-resistant; MIRU-VNTR

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