Dam inactivation in Neisseria meningitidis: prevalence among diverse hyperinvasive lineages
1 The Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research and Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3SY, UK
2 Molecular Infectious Diseases Group, University of Oxford Department of Paediatrics, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DS, UK
BMC Microbiology 2004, 4:34 doi:10.1186/1471-2180-4-34Published: 31 August 2004
DNA adenine methyltransferase (Dam) activity is absent in many, but not all, disease isolates of Neisseria meningitidis, as a consequence of the insertion of a restriction endonuclease-encoding gene, the 'dam replacing gene' (drg) at the dam locus. Here, we report the results of a survey to assess the prevalence of drg in a globally representative panel of disease-associated meningococci.
Of the known meningococcal hyper-invasive lineages investigated, drg was absent in all representatives of the ST-8 and ST-11 clonal complexes tested, but uniformly present in the representatives of the other hyper-invasive lineages present in the isolate collection (the ST-1, ST-4, ST-5, ST-32 and ST-41/44 clonal complexes). The patterns of sequence diversity observed in drg were consistent with acquisition of this gene from a source organism with a different G+C content, at some time prior to the emergence of present-day meningococcal clonal complexes, followed by spread through the meningococcal population by horizontal genetic exchange. During this spread a number of alleles have arisen by mutation and intragenic recombination.
These findings are consistent with the idea that possession of the drg gene may contribute to the divergence observed among meningococcal clonal complexes, but does not have a direct mechanistic involvement in virulence.