A new insertion sequence (IS1381) was identified in the genome of Streptococcus pneumoniae R6 as an 846-bp segment containing 20-bp terminal inverted repeats and flanked by 7-bp direct repeats. The three sequenced copies of this element have two overlapping open reading frame (ORF) genes named orfA and orfB. However, significant variations between individual copies were found, suggesting that inactivating mutations have occurred in an original single ORF. Accordingly, the consensus IS1381 element derived from the comparison of the three available copies should contain a single ORF sufficient to encode a basic protein of 267 amino acids which exhibited high similarity to the putative transposases of ISL2 from Lactobacillus helveticus and of IS702 from the cyanobacterium Calothrix sp. strain PCC 7601. A minimum of five to seven copies were detected by hybridization experiments in the R6 genome. In remarkable contrast with the two previously reported pneumococcal insertion sequences, several copies of IS1381 have been detected in all of the clinical isolates tested so far. Interestingly, Streptococcus oralis NCTC 11427 (type strain), a close relative of pneumococcus, does not contain this element, but its occurrence in the type strain of Streptococcus mitis (NCTC 12261) suggests that this species has exchanged DNA with S. pneumoniae directly or through an intermediate species
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