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1.  Genetic Diversity among Botulinum Neurotoxin-Producing Clostridial Strains▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;189(3):818-832.
Clostridium botulinum is a taxonomic designation for many diverse anaerobic spore-forming rod-shaped bacteria that have the common property of producing botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs). The BoNTs are exoneurotoxins that can cause severe paralysis and death in humans and other animal species. A collection of 174 C. botulinum strains was examined by amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis and by sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and BoNT genes to examine the genetic diversity within this species. This collection contained representatives of each of the seven different serotypes of botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT/A to BoNT/G). Analysis of the16S rRNA gene sequences confirmed previous identifications of at least four distinct genomic backgrounds (groups I to IV), each of which has independently acquired one or more BoNT genes through horizontal gene transfer. AFLP analysis provided higher resolution and could be used to further subdivide the four groups into subgroups. Sequencing of the BoNT genes from multiple strains of serotypes A, B, and E confirmed significant sequence variation within each serotype. Four distinct lineages within each of the BoNT A and B serotypes and five distinct lineages of serotype E strains were identified. The nucleotide sequences of the seven toxin genes of the serotypes were compared and showed various degrees of interrelatedness and recombination, as was previously noted for the nontoxic nonhemagglutinin gene, which is linked to the BoNT gene. These analyses contribute to the understanding of the evolution and phylogeny within this species and assist in the development of improved diagnostics and therapeutics for the treatment of botulism.
doi:10.1128/JB.01180-06
PMCID: PMC1797315  PMID: 17114256
2.  Diversity in a Variable-Number Tandem Repeat from Yersinia pestis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2000;38(4):1516-1519.
We have identified a tetranucleotide repeat sequence, (CAAA)N, in the genome of Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague. This variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) region has nine alleles and great diversity (calculated as 1 minus the sum of the squared allele frequencies) (diversity value, 0.82) within a set of 35 diverse Y. pestis strains. In contrast, the nucleotide sequence of the lcrV (low-calcium-response) gene differed only slightly among these strains, having a haplotype diversity value of 0.17. Replicated cultures, phenotypic variants of particular strains, and extensively cultured replicates within strains did not differ in VNTR allele type. Thus, while a high mutation rate must contribute to the great diversity of this locus, alleles appear stable under routine laboratory culture conditions. The classic three plague biovars did not have single identifying alleles, although there were allelic biases within biovar categories. The antiqua biovar was the most diverse, with four alleles observed in 5 strains, while the orientalis and mediaevalis biovars exhibited five alleles in 21 strains and three alleles in 8 strains, respectively. The CAAA VNTR is located immediately adjacent to the transcriptional promoters for flanking open reading frames and may affect their activity. This VNTR marker may provide a high-resolution tool for epidemiological analyses of plague.
PMCID: PMC86479  PMID: 10747136
3.  Sequence and Organization of pXO1, the Large Bacillus anthracis Plasmid Harboring the Anthrax Toxin Genes 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(20):6509-6515.
The Bacillus anthracis Sterne plasmid pXO1 was sequenced by random, “shotgun” cloning. A circular sequence of 181,654 bp was generated. One hundred forty-three open reading frames (ORFs) were predicted using GeneMark and GeneMark.hmm, comprising only 61% (110,817 bp) of the pXO1 DNA sequence. The overall guanine-plus-cytosine content of the plasmid is 32.5%. The most recognizable feature of the plasmid is a “pathogenicity island,” defined by a 44.8-kb region that is bordered by inverted IS1627 elements at each end. This region contains the three toxin genes (cya, lef, and pagA), regulatory elements controlling the toxin genes, three germination response genes, and 19 additional ORFs. Nearly 70% of the ORFs on pXO1 do not have significant similarity to sequences available in open databases. Absent from the pXO1 sequence are homologs to genes that are typically required to drive theta replication and to maintain stability of large plasmids in Bacillus spp. Among the ORFs with a high degree of similarity to known sequences are a collection of putative transposases, resolvases, and integrases, suggesting an evolution involving lateral movement of DNA among species. Among the remaining ORFs, there are three sequences that may encode enzymes responsible for the synthesis of a polysaccharide capsule usually associated with serotype-specific virulent streptococci.
PMCID: PMC103788  PMID: 10515943

Results 1-3 (3)