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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Identification and characterization of nucleotide sequence differences in three virulence-associated genes of listeria monocytogenes strains representing clinically important serotypes.

Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive, facultative intracellular bacterium that causes invasive, often fatal, disease in susceptible hosts. As a foodborne pathogen, the bacterium has emerged as a significant public health problem and has caused several epidemics in the United States and Europe. Three serotypes (1/2a, 1/2b, 4b) of L. monocytogenes are responsible for nearly 95% of all reported cases of human listeriosis. L. monocytogenes serotype 4b has caused all well-characterized foodborne epidemic outbreaks in North America and Europe between 1981 and 1993. However, most of the genetic studies to characterize virulence factors of L. monocytogenes have been done by using serotypes 1/2a and 1/2c. In this investigation, we examined three virulence-associated genes (hly encoding listeriolysin, plcA encoding phosphotidylinositol-specific phospholipase C, and inlA encoding internalin) of two serotype 4b and two serotype 1/2b strains. We chose these virulence-associated genes on the basis of published sequence differences among strains from Listeria subgroups containing serotypes 1/2a and 1/2c versus 4b, respectively. They correspond to sequence homologies that include very highly conserved (hlyA), highly conserved (plcA) and mostly conserved (inlA). We found by using nucleotide sequence analysis of the hly, plcA, and inlA genes, the two L. monocytogenes strains (including a strain associated with a foodborne disease outbreak in California in 1985) in this study, two serotype 1/2b strains from a study that we recently reported, and other similar published data for serotypes 1/2a, 1/2c, and 4b, had a high degree of sequence conservation at the gene and protein levels for all three genes. However, the sequences for the hly gene of L. monocytogenes strains of serotypes 1/2b and 4b were more closely related to each other and showed significant divergence from serotypes 1/2a and 1/2c. A unique nonsynonymous mutation was found in the hly gene of L. monocytogenes isolates that were associated with the 1985 California outbreak and were the epidemic phage type. When 158 L. monocytogenes isolates from the collection at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were screened, the mutation was found only in one other strain that had been isolated in California 3 years before the epidemic. Although the California epidemic clone was lactose negative, other L. monocytogenes serotype 4b isolates that were lactose negative did not possess the unique mutation observed in that epidemic clone.[1]


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