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1.  Xer1-Mediated Site-Specific DNA Inversions and Excisions in Mycoplasma agalactiae▿ ‡  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(17):4462-4473.
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.
doi:10.1128/JB.01537-09
PMCID: PMC2937384  PMID: 20562305
2.  Phase-locked mutants of Mycoplasma agalactiae: defining the molecular switch of high-frequency Vpma antigenic variation 
Molecular Microbiology  2008;67(6):1196-1210.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, an important pathogen of small ruminants, exhibits antigenic diversity by switching the expression of multiple surface lipoproteins called Vpmas (Variable proteins of M. agalactiae). Although phase variation has been shown to play important roles in many host–pathogen interactions, the biological significance and the mechanism of Vpma oscillations remain largely unclear. Here, we demonstrate that all six Vpma proteins are expressed in the type strain PG2 and all undergo phase variation at an unusually high frequency. Furthermore, targeted gene disruption of the xer1 gene encoding a putative site-specific recombinase adjacent to the vpma locus was accomplished via homologous recombination using a replicon-based vector. Inactivation of xer1 abolished further Vpma switching and the ‘phase-locked’ mutants (PLMs) continued to steadily express only a single Vpma product. Complementation of the wild-type xer1 gene in PLMs restored Vpma phase variation thereby proving that Xer1 is essential for vpma inversions. The study is not only instrumental in enhancing our ability to understand the role of Vpmas in M. agalactiae infections but also provides useful molecular approaches to study potential disease factors in other ‘difficult-to-manipulate’ mycoplasmas.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.06103.x
PMCID: PMC2268961  PMID: 18248580
3.  Generation of Helicobacter pylori Ghosts by PhiX Protein E-Mediated Inactivation and Their Evaluation as Vaccine Candidates  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(1):109-116.
Bacterial ghosts are empty cell envelopes, which may be generated by the controlled expression of the PhiX174 lysis gene E in gram-negative bacteria to obtain vaccine candidates. We describe here the application of this technology to Helicobacter pylori. The lysis gene cassette was cloned into an Escherichia coli-Helicobacter pylori shuttle vector and introduced into an H. pylori recipient strain by bacterial conjugation. Temperature induction of the lysis gene cassette revealed a quantitative killing of the H. pylori culture without induction of lysis-resistant bacteria. Biochemical and transmission electron microscopic studies identified structurally intact H. pylori. Prophylactic oral vaccination experiments using these H. pylori ghosts in the BALB/c mouse model showed a significant reduction of the bacterial load in the ghost group, as measured by a quantitative bacterial reisolation procedure. Ten of 10 and 5 of 10 mice were protected, respectively, without the use of a mucosal adjuvant. Coadministration of ghosts with cholera toxin as mucosal adjuvant resulted in a complete protection of 10 of 10 and 8 of 8 mice against H. pylori challenge, with three animals showing a sterile immunity.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.1.109-116.2003
PMCID: PMC143412  PMID: 12496155

Results 1-3 (3)