Research NewsMicrobiology

Versatile Gene Uptake System Found in Cholera Bacterium

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Science  24 Apr 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5363, pp. 521-522
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5363.521

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On page 605, researchers describe new evidence that the cholera bacterium Vibrio cholerae has a gene acquisition system called an integron. Although integrons in other bacteria have been linked to uptake of antibiotic resistance genes, Vibrio's appears to be much more versatile, apparently enabling the pathogen to pick up several different types of genes, including some encoding toxins that may contribute to the microbe's virulence. The proof that Vibrio has such a gene capture system includes the cloning of a Vibrio gene that codes for an enzyme needed to splice genes into and out of integrons. The versatility of Vibrio's integron system suggests that integrons may have a much broader role than previously thought, which could bode ill for new vaccines being developed against cholera, because a live vaccine that uses Vibrio strains whose virulence genes have been removed may still be capable of getting new virulence genes through its integron.