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Open Access Research article

Identification of new IS711 insertion sites in Brucella abortus field isolates

Marcos Mancilla12, Marcos Ulloa1, Ignacio López-Goñi2, Ignacio Moriyón2 and Ana María Zárraga1*

Author Affiliations

1 Instituto de Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile

2 Instituto de Salud Tropical (IST) and Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología, Universidad de Navarra, c/Irunlarrea 1, 31008, Pamplona, Spain

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:176  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-176

Published: 3 August 2011

Abstract

Background

Brucellosis is a zoonosis caused by Brucella spp., a group of highly homogeneous bacteria. The insertion sequence IS711 is characteristic of these bacteria, and occurs in variable numbers and positions, but always constant within a given species. This species-associated polymorphism is used in molecular typing and identification. Field isolates of B. abortus, the most common species infecting cattle, typically carry seven IS711 copies (one truncated). Thus far, IS711 transposition has only been shown in vitro and only for B. ovis and B. pinnipedialis, two species carrying a high number of IS711 copies, but never in other Brucella species, neither in vitro nor in field strains.

Results

We found several B. abortus strains isolated from milk and aborted fetuses that carried additional IS711 copies in two hitherto undescribed insertion sites: one in an intergenic region near to the 3' end of a putative lactate permease gene and the other interrupting the sequence of a marR transcriptional regulator gene. Interestingly, the second type of insertion was identified in isolates obtained repeatedly from the same herd after successive brucellosis outbreaks, an observation that proves the stability and virulence of the new genotype under natural conditions. Sequence analyses revealed that the new copies probably resulted from the transposition of a single IS711 copy common to all Brucella species sequenced so far.

Conclusions

Our results show that the replicative transposition of IS711 can occur under field conditions. Therefore, it represents an active mechanism for the emergence of genetic diversity in B. abortus thus contributing to intra-species genetic polymorphism.