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The central region of the msp gene of Treponema denticola has sequence heterogeneity among clinical samples, obtained from patients with periodontitis

Paolo Gaibani1*, Maria Teresa Pellegrino1, Giada Rossini1, Gualtiero Alvisi1, Luisa Miragliotta1, Carlo Prati2 and Vittorio Sambri1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Hematology and Oncology "L. and A. Seragnoli", University St. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, V. Massarenti 9, Bologna, Italy

2 Department of Odontostomatological Sciences, University of Bologna, V. San Vitale 59, Bologna, Italy

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:345  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-345

Published: 7 December 2010



Treponema denticola is an oral spirochete involved in the pathogenesis and progression of periodontal disease. Of its virulence factors, the major surface protein (MSP) plays a role in the interaction between the treponeme and host. To understand the possible evolution of this protein, we analyzed the sequence of the msp gene in 17 T. denticola positive clinical samples.


Nucleotide and amino acid sequence of MSP have been determined by PCR amplification and sequencing in seventeen T. denticola clinical specimens to evaluate the genetic variability and the philogenetic relationship of the T. denticola msp gene among the different amplified sequence of positive samples. In silico antigenic analysis was performed on each MSP sequences to determined possible antigenic variation.


The msp sequences showed two highly conserved 5' and 3' ends and a central region that varies substantially. Phylogenetic analysis categorized the 17 specimens into 2 principal groups, suggesting a low rate of evolutionary variability and an elevated degree of conservation of msp in clinically derived genetic material. Analysis of the predicted antigenic variability between isolates, demonstrated that the major differences lay between amino acids 200 and 300.


These findings showed for the first time, the nucleotide and amino acids variation of the msp gene in infecting T. denticola, in vivo. This data suggested that the antigenic variability found in to the MSP molecule, may be an important factor involved in immune evasion by T. denticola.