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1.  Identification and Characterization of Phytoplasmal Genes, Employing a Novel Method of Isolating Phytoplasmal Genomic DNA 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(22):6513-6521.
Phytoplasmas are unculturable, insect-transmissible plant pathogens belonging to the class Mollicutes. To be transmitted, the phytoplasmas replicate in the insect body and are delivered to the insect's salivary glands, from where they are injected into the recipient plant. Because phytoplasmas cannot be cultured, any attempt to recover phytoplasmal DNA from infected plants or insects has resulted in preparations with a large background of host DNA. Thus, studies of the phytoplasmal genome have been greatly hampered, and aside from the rRNA genes, only a few genes have hitherto been isolated and characterized. We developed a unique method to obtain host-free phytoplasmal genomic DNA from the insect vector's saliva, and we demonstrated the feasibility of this method by isolating and characterizing 78 new putative phytoplasmal open reading frames and their deduced proteins. Based on the newly accumulated information on phytoplasmal genes, preliminary characteristics of the phytoplasmal genome are discussed.
doi:10.1128/JB.185.22.6513-6521.2003
PMCID: PMC262124  PMID: 14594823
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Extended Repertoire of Genes Encoding Variable Surface Lipoproteins in Mycoplasma bovis Strains  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(4):2220-2225.
A genomic cluster of vsp genes was previously shown to mediate high-frequency phenotypic switching of surface lipoprotein antigens in the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. This study revealed that field strains of M. bovis possess modified versions of the vsp gene complex in which extensive sequence variations occur primarily in the reiterated coding sequences of the vsp structural genes. These findings demonstrate that there is a vastly expanded potential for antigenic variation within populations of this organism.
doi:10.1128/IAI.70.4.2220-2225.2002
PMCID: PMC127842  PMID: 11895991
5.  Juxtaposition of an Active Promoter to vsp Genes via Site-Specific DNA Inversions Generates Antigenic Variation in Mycoplasma bovis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(19):5698-5708.
Mycoplasma bovis, the most important etiological agent of bovine mycoplasmosis, undergoes extensive antigenic variation of major and highly immunogenic surface lipoprotein antigens (Vsps). A family of 13 related but divergent vsp genes, which occur as single chromosomal copies, was recently found in the chromosome of M. bovis. In the present study, the molecular mechanism mediating the high-frequency phase variation of two Vsps (VspA and VspC) as representatives of the Vsp family was investigated. Analysis of clonal isolates exhibiting phase transitions of VspA or of VspC (i.e., ON→OFF→ON) has shown that DNA inversions occur during Vsp phase variation. The upstream region of each vsp gene contains two sequence cassettes. The first (cassette no. 1), a 71-bp region upstream of the ATG initiation codon, exhibits 98% homology among all vsp genes, while the second (cassette no. 2), upstream of cassette no. 1, ranges in size from 50 to 180 bp and is more divergent. Examination of the ends of the inverted fragments during VspA or VspC phase variation revealed that in both cases, a change in the organization of vsp upstream cassettes involving three vsp genes had occurred. Primer extension and Northern blot analysis have shown that a specific cassette no. 2, designated A2, is an active promoter and that juxtaposition of this regulatory element to a silent vsp gene by DNA inversions allows transcription initiation of the recipient gene. Further genetic analysis revealed that phase variation of VspA or of VspC involves two site-specific DNA inversions occurring between inverted copies of a specific 35-bp sequence present within the conserved cassette no. 1. A model for the control of Vsp phase variation is proposed.
doi:10.1128/JB.183.19.5698-5708.2001
PMCID: PMC95462  PMID: 11544233
6.  Intrachromosomal Recombination within the vsp Locus of Mycoplasma bovis Generates a Chimeric Variable Surface Lipoprotein Antigen 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(6):3703-3712.
A family of 13 related but divergent vsp genes was recently found in the chromosome of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. The vsp genomic locus was shown to undergo high-frequency rearrangements and to mediate phenotypic switching of variable lipoprotein antigens (Vsps) on the mycoplasma cell surface. Here we report that the vsp gene repertoire is subject to changes. Genetic analysis of M. bovis clonal isolates displaying distinct Vsp phenotypes showed that an intergenic recombination event between two closely related members of the vsp gene family, the formerly expressed vspA gene and the vspO gene, led to the formation of a new chimeric and functional vsp gene, vspC. The 5′ end of the recombination event was identified within the highly conserved vsp-upstream region, while the 3′ end was localized within the first repetitive domain (RA1) present in both vspA and vspO structural genes. As a result, the vspC gene is an embodiment of the following domains: an N-terminus-encoding region linked to the highly conserved vsp-upstream region provided by the vspO gene; and a C-terminus-encoding region and the more distal and divergent vsp-upstream region acquired from the vspA gene. The generation of chimeric genes encoding surface antigens may provide an important element of genetic variation and an additional source of antigenic diversification within the mycoplasma population.
doi:10.1128/IAI.69.6.3703-3712.2001
PMCID: PMC98374  PMID: 11349034
7.  The vsp Locus of Mycoplasma bovis: Gene Organization and Structural Features 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(18):5734-5741.
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.
PMCID: PMC94094  PMID: 10482515
8.  Molecular Biology and Pathogenicity of Mycoplasmas 
The recent sequencing of the entire genomes of Mycoplasma genitalium and M. pneumoniae has attracted considerable attention to the molecular biology of mycoplasmas, the smallest self-replicating organisms. It appears that we are now much closer to the goal of defining, in molecular terms, the entire machinery of a self-replicating cell. Comparative genomics based on comparison of the genomic makeup of mycoplasmal genomes with those of other bacteria, has opened new ways of looking at the evolutionary history of the mycoplasmas. There is now solid genetic support for the hypothesis that mycoplasmas have evolved as a branch of gram-positive bacteria by a process of reductive evolution. During this process, the mycoplasmas lost considerable portions of their ancestors’ chromosomes but retained the genes essential for life. Thus, the mycoplasmal genomes carry a high percentage of conserved genes, greatly facilitating gene annotation. The significant genome compaction that occurred in mycoplasmas was made possible by adopting a parasitic mode of life. The supply of nutrients from their hosts apparently enabled mycoplasmas to lose, during evolution, the genes for many assimilative processes. During their evolution and adaptation to a parasitic mode of life, the mycoplasmas have developed various genetic systems providing a highly plastic set of variable surface proteins to evade the host immune system. The uniqueness of the mycoplasmal systems is manifested by the presence of highly mutable modules combined with an ability to expand the antigenic repertoire by generating structural alternatives, all compressed into limited genomic sequences. In the absence of a cell wall and a periplasmic space, the majority of surface variable antigens in mycoplasmas are lipoproteins. Apart from providing specific antimycoplasmal defense, the host immune system is also involved in the development of pathogenic lesions and exacerbation of mycoplasma induced diseases. Mycoplasmas are able to stimulate as well as suppress lymphocytes in a nonspecific, polyclonal manner, both in vitro and in vivo. As well as to affecting various subsets of lymphocytes, mycoplasmas and mycoplasma-derived cell components modulate the activities of monocytes/macrophages and NK cells and trigger the production of a wide variety of up-regulating and down-regulating cytokines and chemokines. Mycoplasma-mediated secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-1 (IL-1), and IL-6, by macrophages and of up-regulating cytokines by mitogenically stimulated lymphocytes plays a major role in mycoplasma-induced immune system modulation and inflammatory responses.
PMCID: PMC98941  PMID: 9841667

Results 1-8 (8)