exl, an Exchangeable Genetic Island in Neisseria meningitidis

Charlene Kahler, E. Blum, Y.K. Miller, D. Ryan, T. Popovic, D.S. Stephens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The genetic structure and evolution of a novel exchangeable meningococcal genomic island was defined for the important human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis, In 125 meningococcal strains tested, one of three unrelated nucleotide sequences, designated exl (exchangeable locus), was found between a gene required for heme utilization, hemO, and col, encoding a putative Escherichia coli collagenase homologue. The 5' boundary of each exl cassette was the stop codon of hemO, whereas the 3' boundary was delineated by a 33-bp repeat containing neisserial uptake sequences located downstream of col. One of the three alternative exl cassettes contained the meningococcal hemoglobin receptor gene, hmbR (exl3), In other meningococcal strains, hmbR was absent from the genome and was replaced by either a nucleotide sequence containing a novel open reading frame, exl2, or a cassette containing exl3. The proteins encoded by exl2 and exl3 had no significant amino acid homology to HmbR but contained six motifs that are also present in the lipoprotein components of the lactoferrin (LbpB), transferrin (TbpB), and hemoglobin-haptoglobin (HpuA) uptake systems. To determine the evolutionary relationships among meningococci carrying hmbR, exl2, or exl3, isolates representing 92 electrophoretic types were examined. hmbR was found throughout the population structure of N. meningitidis (genetic distance, >0.425), whereas exl2 and exl3 were found in clonal groups at genetic distances of
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1687-1696
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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