Some pathogenic microbes utilize homologous recombination to generate antigenic variability in targets of immune surveillance. These specialized systems rely on the cellular recombination machinery to catalyse dedicated, high-frequency reactions that provide extensive diversity in the genes encoding surface antigens. A description of the specific mechanisms that allow unusually high rates of recombination without deleterious effects on the genome in the well-characterized pilin antigenic variation systems of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis is presented. We will also draw parallels to selected bacterial and eukaryotic antigenic variation systems, and suggest the most pressing unanswered questions related to understanding these important processes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology