A conserved DNA sequence is required for efficient gonococcal pilin antigenic variation

Leslie Ann Wainwright, Kristen Hoikka Pritchard, H. Steven Seifert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Antigenic variation of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae pilus occurs when a variant pilin sequence from a silent locus recombines into the expression locus by predominantly unidirectional, homologous recombination. At the 3' end of all pilin loci lies a conserved DNA sequence, called the Sma/Cla repeat, which has sequence similarity to several recombinase-binding sites, and therefore may be involved in pilin recombination. We have developed a novel reverse transcriptase/polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay for direct monitoring of pilin recombination, and both RT-PCR and phase variation were used to examine pilin recombination in a gonococcal strain that had had the pilE Sma/Cla repeat removed. Results from these experiments showed a decrease in pilin recombination when the Sma/Cla sequence was deleted from the expression locus, showing that a specialized site (Sma/Cla) is involved in efficient pilin recombination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-87
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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