Focusing homologous recombination: Pilin antigenic variation in the pathogenic Neisseria

Laty A. Cahoon, H. Steven Seifert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

67 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1136-1143
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


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