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    Cell wall proteins with sialidase activity are involved in carbohydrate assimilation, adhesion to mucosal surfaces, and biofilm formation. Gardnerella spp. inhabit the human vaginal microbiome and encode up to three sialidase enzymes, two of which are suspected to be cell wall associated. Here, we demonstrate that the gene encoding extracellular sialidase NanH3 is found almost exclusively in Gardnerella piotii and the closely related species Gardnerella genome sp. 3, and its presence correlates with a sialidase-positive phenotype in a collection of 112 Gardnerella isolates. The nanH3 gene sequence includes a homopolymeric repeat of cytosines that varies in length within cell populations, indicating that this gene is subject to slipped-strand mispairing, a mechanism of phase variation in bacteria. Variation in the length of the homopolymer sequence results in production of either the full-length sialidase protein or truncated peptides lacking the sialidase domain due to introduction of reading-frame shifts and premature stop codons. Phase variation in NanH3 may be involved in immune evasion or modulation of adhesion to host epithelial cells and formation of biofilms characteristic of the vaginal dysbiosis known as bacterial vaginosis. Copyright © 2021 American Society for Microbiology.


    Shakya P Kurukulasuriya, Mo H Patterson, Janet E Hill. Slipped-Strand Mispairing in the Gene Encoding Sialidase NanH3 in Gardnerella spp. Infection and immunity. 2021 Feb 16;89(3)

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    PMID: 33361200

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