Neisseria meningitidis causes meningococcal disease, often resulting in fulminant meningitis, sepsis, and death. Vaccination programs have been developed to prevent infection of this pathogen, but serogroup replacement is a problem. Capsular switching has been an important survival mechanism for N. meningitidis, allowing the organism to evolve in the present vaccine era. However, related mechanisms have not been completely elucidated. Genetic analysis of capsular switching between diverse serogroups would help further our understanding of this pathogen. In this study, we analyzed the genetic characteristics of the sequence type 7 (ST-7) serogroup X strain that was predicted to arise from ST-7 serogroup A at the genomic level. By comparing the genomic structures and sequences, ST-7 serogroup X was closest to ST-7 serogroup A, whereas eight probable recombination regions, including the capsular gene locus, were identified. This indicated that serogroup X originated from serogroup A by recombination leading to capsular switching. The recombination involved approximately 8,540 bp from the end of the ctrC gene to the middle of the galE gene. There were more recombination regions and strain-specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms in serogroup X than in serogroup A genomes. However, no specific gene was found for each serogroup except those in the capsule gene locus. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.
Journal: Infection and immunity