The pilus is a major outer-membrane protein of Neisseria gonorrhoeae that undergoes phase and antigenic variation. In strain MS11 pilus expression is regulated at two expression loci on the chromosome, pilE1 and pilE2, although many other regions contain silent pilin information. A comparison of variant pilin sequences has revealed that the gene can be divided into a constant, a semivariable, and a hypervariable region. We report here that complete pilin genes are found only at the expression loci. Silent constant and variable region pilin gene segments are located on separate and distinct restriction fragments, and the generation of a complete pilin gene within the expression loci is the result of multiple recombination events. Conserved sequences within and flanking the pilin gene are proposed to act as recombination sites during the gene conversion events needed to produce a functional pilin gene.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jan 1 1986|
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