The nucleotide sequence of a 3.5-kb BamHI fragment from Listeria monocytogenes 12067, a human clinical isolate of serotype 4b, has been determined. The DNA fragment harbors the gene for listeriolysin, part of the gene for a phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C, and part of the gene for a metalloprotease. Comparison of the sequence with corresponding sequences from two other L. monocytogenes isolates revealed a significant number of nucleotide differences. Several of the differences give rise to amino acid substitutions. The most variable region was the examined part of the mpl gene, whereas the lisA gene showed a relatively high degree of conservation, particularly at the amino acid level. To analyze the pattern of sequence variability in the lisA gene, a 160-bp region covering nine nucleotide differences was sequenced from 36 isolates of different origins. This work showed that the strains can be grouped into two major types according to the nucleotide sequences. Oligonucleotide probing of a larger number of L. monocytogenes isolates showed that the observed differences can be used to subdivide the species. The data suggest a correspondence between the sequence type of the lisA gene and flagellar antigens. Assays based on hybridization or the polymerase chain reaction with type-specific oligonucleotides may provide fast and easy alternative methods for strain typing
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