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Phase variation controls expression of Salmonella lipopolysaccharide modification genes by a DNA methylation-dependent mechanism

By S E Broadbent, M R Davies and M W van der Woude


The O-antigen of Salmonella lipopolysaccharide is a major antigenic determinant and its chemical composition forms the basis for Salmonella serotyping. Modifications of the O-antigen that can affect the serotype include those carried out by the products of glycosyltransferase operons (gtr), which are present on specific Salmonella and phage genomes. Here we show that expression of the gtr genes encoded by phage P22 that confers the O1 serotype is under the control of phase variation. This phase variation occurs by a novel epigenetic mechanism requiring OxyR in conjunction with the DNA methyltransferase Dam. OxyR is an activator or a repressor of the system depending on which of its two binding sites in the gtr regulatory region is occupied. Binding is decreased by methylation at Dam target sequences in either site, and this confers heritability of the expression state to the system. Most Salmonella gtr operons share the key regulatory elements that are identified here as essential for this epigenetic phase variation

Topics: Research Articles
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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