Phosphoprotein phosphatases encoded by the prpA and prpB genes function in signal transduction pathways for degradation of misfolded proteins in the extracytoplasmic compartments of Escherichia coli. In order to trace the evolution of prp genes and assess their roles in other enteric pathogens, the structure and distribution of these genes among closely related Shigella subgroups were studied. PCR amplification, probe hybridization studies and DNA sequencing were used to determine the prp genotypes of 58 strains from the four Shigella subgroups, Dysenteriae, Boydii, Sonnei and Flexneri. It was found that the prp alleles among Shigella subgroups were extremely susceptible to gene inactivation and that the mutations involved in prp allele inactivation were varied. They included IS insertions, gene replacement by an IS element, a small deletion within the gene or large deletion engulfing the entire gene region, and base substitutions that generated premature termination codons. As a result, of 58 strains studied, only eight (14 %) possessed intact prpA and prpB genes. Of the Shigella strains examined, 76 % (44/58) showed at least one of the prp alleles inactivated by one or more IS elements, including IS 1, IS4, IS600 and IS629. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that IS elements have been independently acquired in multiple lineages of Shigella, suggesting that loss of functional alleles has been advantageous during Shigella strain evolution.
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