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Free Content Ureaplasma antigenic variation beyond MBA phase variation: DNA inversions generating chimeric structures and switching in expression of the MBA N-terminal paralogue UU172

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Summary

Phase variation of the major ureaplasma surface membrane protein, the multiple-banded antigen (MBA), with its counterpart, the UU376 protein, was recently discussed as a result of DNA inversion occurring at specific inverted repeats. Two similar inverted repeats to the ones within the mba locus were found in the genome of Ureaplasma parvum serovar 3; one within the MBA N-terminal paralogue UU172 and another in the adjacent intergenic spacer region. In this report, we demonstrate on both genomic and protein level that DNA inversion at these inverted repeats leads to alternating expression between UU172 and the neighbouring conserved hypothetical ORF UU171. Sequence analysis of this phase-variable ‘UU172 element’ from both U. parvum and U. urealyticum strains revealed that it is highly conserved among both species and that it also includes the orthologue of UU144. A third inverted repeat region in UU144 is proposed to serve as an additional potential inversion site from which chimeric genes can evolve. Our results indicate that site-specific recombination events in the genome of U. parvum serovar 3 are dynamic and frequent, leading to a broad spectrum of antigenic variation by which the organism may evade host immune responses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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