Summary: The technique of representation difference analysis PCR has been applied to find genes specific to subsp. . This generated a 671 bp fragment which was used to isolate a larger genetic element found in the enteric pathogens subsp. and subsp. but which was absent from the very closely related and relatively benign subsp. . This element, designated GS, is greater than 6·5 kbp in length and has a G+C content 9 mol% lower than other genes from this species. There is a previously uncharacterized insertion sequence associated with one end. The GS element encodes five ORFs in subsp. and subsp. , all of which have counterparts encoded in Database searches revealed homologues for these ORFs in a number of bacterial species, predominantly Gram-negative organisms, including a number of enteric pathogens. These homologous genes encode functions related to LPS or extracellular polysaccharide biosynthesis. This element has a number of features in common with pathogenicity islands such as its low G+C content, an association with a putative insertion sequence and a grouping of genes of related function with a possible link to virulence. No direct link to pathogenicity has been shown but GS may belong to a group of related ‘genetic islands’ and represents the first such element to be identified in mycobacteria.


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