Different mutations in the oafA gene lead to loss of O5-antigen expression in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium

J Appl Microbiol. 2011 Jan;110(1):248-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2010.04877.x. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


Aims: To analyse genetic changes in the oafA gene explaining the loss of O5-antigen expression in Salmonella Typhimurium and Salm. 4,[5],12:i:-.

Methods and results: The oafA gene in 52 O5-antigen-negative and 77 O5-antigen-positive Salm. Typhimurium (N = 47) and Salm. 4,[5],12:i:- (monophasic Salm. Typhimurium strains, N = 82) was investigated by a combination of PCR screening and DNA sequencing to identify mutations leading to the suppression of the O5-antigen. Various DNA sequence changes within the open reading frame (ORF) of oafA in O5-antigen-negative strains could be identified. In 77% of the O5-antigen-negative strains, a 7-bp deletion of a duplicated sequence within the functional oafA gene led to a frameshift in the ORF. In four strains, an IS4 element and in two, an IS1 element was inserted at different positions. Four other strains carried at different positions single base pair substitutions causing a premature stop codon. Finally, in two strains, a deletion of the oafA 3'end of undetermined size was responsible for the lack of O5-antigen expression. In none of the strains investigated, the complete ORF of oafA was deleted. Primers were designed and used to detect the most prominent variants.

Conclusions: O5-antigen-negative Salm. Typhimurium and Salm. 4,[5],12:i:- strains carry an oafA pseudogene caused by different genetic events indicating that there is a selection for oafA mutations leading to the loss of O5-antigen expression.

Significance and impact of the study: The loss of O5-antigen expression may be an example of a common evolutionary mechanism to escape host defence or to adapt to environmental changes. The data are the basis for the development of diagnostic PCR assays for the differentiation of O5-antigen-positive and O5-antigen-negative Salm. Typhimurium and its monophasic (Salm. 4,[5],12:i-) strains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Mutation
  • O Antigens / genetics
  • O Antigens / metabolism*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Salmonella typhimurium / classification
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics*
  • Salmonella typhimurium / immunology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • O Antigens
  • Acetyltransferases
  • OafA protein, Salmonella typhimurium