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Allelic polymorphism and site-specific recombination in the opc locus of Neisseria meningitidis


Mark Achtman E-mail achtman@MPIMG-Berlin-Dahlem.MPG.DE; Tel. (30) 8413 1262; Fax (30) 8413 1387


The opc gene is widespread in epidemic and endemic Neisseria meningitidis, but most strains of certain epidemic clones (ET-37 complex, Cluster A4) and a few random endemic isolates lack an opc gene. Four percent of the 1148 bp that contain opc plus the surrounding intergenic region was polymorphic (18 alleles), and many of the alleles contained a 230 bp insertion at a fixed location in the intergenic region. The presence or absence of the insertion reflects site-specific recombination. The alleles are stably inherited within clonal groupings for up to at least 50 years, with rare cases of horizontal genetic exchange. Most statistical methods indicated significant intragenic recombination events within this dataset.