Genetic heterogeneity among isolates of Coxiella burnetii

J Gen Microbiol. 1986 Feb;132(2):455-63. doi: 10.1099/00221287-132-2-455.


Chromosomal and plasmid DNA have been extracted from six isolates of Coxiella burnetii, the aetiological agent of Q fever. Restriction fragment length polymorphisms detected after HaeIII digestions of chromosomal DNA revealed four different patterns that distinguished the American from the European isolates, and the Nine Mile phase I prototype strain from a spontaneously derived, isogenic phase II nonrevertant variant. At least one of the HaeIII fragments visible in the pattern from Nine Mile phase I and not in that from Nine Mile phase II could not be detected by DNA-DNA hybridization, and thus may have been deleted during the phase transition. Comparison of Nine Mile phase II, which does not survive animal passage, with Grita M44 phase II, which does, indicated that the HaeIII fragment was present in the Grita strain. These results suggest that this HaeIII fragment may be concerned with functions necessary to survive the cellular immune response in vivo. Isolates from two human endocarditis cases showed the greatest divergence from all the other isolates, having at least five fragments of unique mobility in the HaeIII digestion pattern of their chromosomal DNA. Also, a plasmid obtained from these two isolates was 2 to 3 kb larger than the plasmid present in the other five isolates, and its restriction pattern could be distinguished from that of the other plasmids by several endonucleases. Detection of chromosomal and plasmid restriction fragment length polymorphisms among strains of phase I or phase II C. burnetii from various geographical locations and environmental sources will facilitate Q fever diagnosis and strain identification.

MeSH terms

  • Autoradiography
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial / analysis
  • Coxiella / genetics*
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Plasmids


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes