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1.  Variable Lipoprotein Genes of Mycoplasma agalactiae Are Activated In Vivo by Promoter Addition via Site-Specific DNA Inversions  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(7):3821-3830.
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.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.7.3821-3830.2003
PMCID: PMC162021  PMID: 12819065
2.  Cytadherence-Deficient Mutants of Mycoplasma gallisepticum Generated by Transposon Mutagenesis  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(7):3812-3820.
Cytadherence-related molecules of Mycoplasma gallisepticum strain R-low were identified by Tn4001 transposon mutagenesis with the hemadsorption (HA) assay as an indicator for cytadherence. Three Gmr HA-negative (HA−) colonies displaying a stable HA− phenotype through several successive generations in which gentamicin selection was maintained were isolated from four independent transformation experiments and characterized. Southern blot analysis showed that the transposon was inserted as a single copy within the genome of each of the HA− mutants, suggesting that the transposon insertion was directly responsible for their inability to attach to erythrocytes. Sequence analysis of the transposon insertion sites revealed that in two mutants, the transposon was inserted at two distinct sites within the gapA structural gene. In the third mutant, the insertion was mapped within the crmA gene, which is located immediately downstream of the gapA gene as part of the same operon. In vitro attachment experiments with the MRC-5 human lung fibroblast cell line showed that the cytadherence capabilities of the HA− mutants were less than 25% those of original strain R. Experimental infection of chickens, the natural host of M. gallisepticum, with each of the three mutants demonstrated significantly impaired colonization and host responses. These data demonstrate conclusively the role of both GapA and CrmA proteins in the adherence of M. gallisepticum to host cells in model systems and in vivo colonization. Furthermore, these results underscore the relevance of in vitro cytadherence model systems for studying the pathogenesis of natural infections in chickens.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.7.3812-3820.2003
PMCID: PMC162017  PMID: 12819064

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