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1.  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
2.  Molecular evolution and diversity in Bacillus anthracis as detected by amplified fragment length polymorphism markers. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(3):818-824.
Bacillus anthracis causes anthrax and represents one of the most molecularly monomorphic bacteria known. We have used AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) DNA markers to analyze 78 B. anthracis isolates and six related Bacillus species for molecular variation. AFLP markers are extremely sensitive to even small sequence variation, using PCR and high-resolution electrophoresis to examine restriction fragments. Using this approach, we examined ca. 6.3% of the Bacillus genome for length mutations and ca. 0.36% for point mutations. Extensive variation was observed among taxa, and both cladistic and phenetic analyses were used to construct a phylogeny of B. anthracis and its closest relatives. This genome-wide analysis of 357 AFLP characters (polymorphic fragments) indicates that B. cereus and B. thuringiensis are the closest taxa to B. anthracis, with B. mycoides slightly more distant. B. subtilis, B. polymyxa, and B. stearothermophilus shared few AFLP markers with B. anthracis and were used as outgroups to root the analysis. In contrast to the variation among taxa, only rare AFLP marker variation was observed within B. anthracis, which may be the most genetically uniform bacterial species known. However, AFLP markers did establish the presence or absence of the pXO1 and pXO2 plasmids and detected 31 polymorphic chromosomal regions among the 79 B. anthracis isolates. Cluster analysis identified two very distinct genetic lineages among the B. anthracis isolates. The level of variation and its geographic distribution are consistent with a historically recent African origin for this pathogenic organism. Based on AFLP marker similarity, the ongoing anthrax epidemic in Canada and the northern United States is due to a single strain introduction that has remained stable over at least 30 years and a 1,000-mile distribution.
PMCID: PMC178765  PMID: 9006038

Results 1-2 (2)