Phase variants of Bordetella bronchiseptica arise by spontaneous deletions in the vir locus

Molecular Microbiology
D M MonackS Falkow


Bordetella bronchiseptica is a common respiratory tract pathogen of many mammalian species. Nucleotide sequences from the locus involved in coordinate regulation of B. pertussis virulence factors, vir, were shown to have a high degree of homology to chromosomal DNA from virulent (Vir+) and avirulent (Vir-) strains of B. bronchiseptica. Small deletions, 50 bp to 500 bp, within the vir locus were found in some of the Vir- phase variants. The vir locus and the adjacent 5' portion of the fhaB structural gene were cloned from the parental Vir+ B. bronchiseptica strain on a 23.5 kb BamHI fragment. Restriction enzyme mapping of the cloned B. bronchiseptica vir locus revealed similarities with and differences from the previously cloned B. pertussis vir locus. The cloned B. bronchiseptica vir locus complemented spontaneous Vir- variants of Bordetella pertussis and B. bronchiseptica as well as vir::Tn5 mutants of B. pertussis. Comparison of various functions of the vir loci of B. bronchiseptica and B. pertussis revealed some interesting differences in the coordinate regulation of virulence factors.


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