Electrophoretic variation in adenylate kinase of Neisseria meningitidis is due to inter- and intraspecies recombination

Edward Feil, Gill Carpenter, Brian G. Spratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms, the electrophoretic variation in housekeeping enzymes from natural populations is assumed to have arisen by the accumulation of stochastic predominantly neutral mutations. In the naturally transformable bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, we show that variation in the electrophoretic mobility of adenylate kinase is due to inter- and intraspecies recombination rather than mutation. The nucleotide sequences of the adenylate kinase gene (adk) from isolates that express the predominant slow electrophoretic variant were rather uniform, differing in sequence at an average of 1.1% of nucleotide sites. The adk sequences of rare isolates expressing the fast migrating variant were identical to each other but had a striking mosaic structure when compared to the adk genes from strains expressing the predominant variant. Thus the sequence from the fast variants was identical to those of typical slow variants in the first 158 hp of the gene but differed by 8.4% in the rest of the gene (nt 159-636). The fast electrophoretic variant appears to have arisen by the replacement of most of the meningococcal gene with the corresponding region from the adk gene of a closely related Neisseria species. The adk genes expressing the electrophoretic variant with intermediate mobility were perfect, or almost perfect, recombinants between the adk genes expressing the fast and slow variants. Recombination may, therefore, play a major role in the generation of electrophoretically detectable variation in housekeeping enzymes of some bacterial species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10535-10539
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 1995


  • linkage disequilibrium
  • mosaic genes
  • multilocus enzyme electrophoresis
  • natural transformation
  • nonclonal population structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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