Molecular analysis of the rfb gene cluster of Salmonella serovar muenchen (strain M67): the genetic basis of the polymorphism between groups C2 and B



The rfb (O antigen) gene cluster of group C2 Salmonella differs from that of group B in a central region of 12.4kb: we report the sequencing of this region of strain M67 (group C2) and a subsequent comparison with the central region of strain LT2 (group B). We find a block of seven open reading frames unique to group C2 which encode the O antigen polymerase (rfc) and the transferases responsible for assembly of the group C2 O antigen. The remaining rfb genes are common to strains M67 and LT2, but rfbJ (GDP-abequose synthase) and rfbM and rfbK (GDP-mannose synthesis), which are immediately adjacent to the central region, are highly divergent. All these genes have a low G+C content and appear to have been recent additions to Salmonella enterica. We discuss the evolutionary significance of the arrangement and divergence of the genes in the polymorphism of the rfb cluster.