Bacillus anthracis is a gram-positive spore-forming bacterium that causes the disease anthrax. The anthrax toxin contains three components, including the protective antigen (PA), which binds to eucaryotic cell surface receptors and mediates the transport of toxins into the cell. In this study, the entire 2,294-nucleotide protective antigen gene (pag) was sequenced from 26 of the most diverse B. anthracis strains to identify potential variation in the toxin and to further our understanding of B. anthracis evolution. Five point mutations, three synonymous and two missense, were identified. These differences correspond to six different haploid types, which translate into three different amino acid sequences. The two amino acid changes were shown to be located in an area near a highly antigenic region critical to lethal factor binding. Nested primers were used to amplify and sequence this same region of pag from necropsy samples taken from victims of the 1979 Sverdlovsk incident. This investigation uncovered five different alleles among the strains present in the tissues, including two not seen in the 26-sample survey. One of these two alleles included a novel missense mutation, again located just adjacent to the highly antigenic region. Phylogenetic (cladistic) analysis of the pag corresponded with previous strain grouping based on chromosomal variation, suggesting that plasmid evolution in B. anthracis has occurred with little or no horizontal transfer between the different strains.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology