Neisseria gonorrhoeae (the gonococcus) is an obligate human pathogen and the causative agent of the disease gonorrhea. The gonococcal pilus undergoes antigenic variation through high-frequency recombination events between unexpressed pilS silent copies and the pilin expression locus pilE. The machinery involved in pilin antigenic variation identified to date is composed primarily of genes involved in homologous recombination. However, a number of characteristics of antigenic variation suggest that one or more recombinases, in addition to the homologous recombination machinery, may be involved in mediating sequence changes at pilE. Previous work has identified several genes in the gonococcus with significant identity to the pilin inversion gene (piv) from Moraxella species and transposases of the IS110 family of insertion elements. These genes were candidates for a recombinase system involved in pilin antigenic variation. We have named these genes irg for invertase-related gene family. In this work, we characterize these genes and demonstrate that the irg genes do not complement for Moraxella lacunata Piv invertase or IS492 MooV transposase activities. Moreover, by inactivation of all eight gene copies and overexpression of one gene copy, we conclusively show that these recombinases are not involved in gonococcal pilin variation, DNA transformation, or DNA repair. We propose that the irg genes encode transposases for two different IS110-related elements given the names ISNgo2 and ISNgo3. ISNgo2 is located at multiple loci on the chromosome of N. gonorrhoeae, and ISNgo3 is found in single and duplicate copies in the N. gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis genomes, respectively.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology