Ureaplasma parvum colonizes human mucosal surfaces, primarily in the respiratory and urogenital tracts, causing a wide spectrum of diseases, from non-gonococcal urethritis to pneumonitis in immunocompromised hosts. Although the basis for these diverse clinical outcomes is not yet understood, more severe disease may be associated with strains harboring a certain set of strain-specific genes. To investigate this, whole genome DNA macroarrays were constructed and used to assess genomic diversity in 10 U. parvum clinical strains. We found that 7.6% of U. parvum genes were dispersed into one or more strains, thus defining a minimal functional core of 538 U. parvum genes. Most of the strain-specific genes (79%) were of unknown function and were unique to U. parvum. Four hypervariable plasticity regions were identified in the genome containing 93% of the variability in the gene pool (UU32-UU33, UU145-UU170, UU440-UU447 and UU527-UU529). We hypothesized that one of them (UU145-UU170) was a pathogenicity island in U. parvum and we characterized it. Thus, we propose that the clinical outcome of U. parvum infection is probably associated with this newly identified pathogenicity island.
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