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REVIEW: O-Antigen Modifications Providing Antigenic Diversity of Shigella flexneri and Underlying Genetic Mechanisms

Y. A. Knirel1*, Qiangzheng Sun2, S. N. Senchenkova1, A. V. Perepelov1, A. S. Shashkov1, and Jianguo Xu2

1Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 119991 Moscow, Russia; fax: (499) 137-6148; E-mail: yknirel@gmail.com

2State Key Laboratory for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, National Institute for Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, P.O. Box 5, Changping, Beijing 102206, China; E-mail: sunqiangzheng@icdc.cn; xujianguo@icdc.cn

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received December 11, 2014; Revision received February 24, 2015
O-Antigens (O-specific polysaccharides) of Shigella flexneri, a primary cause of shigellosis, are distinguished by a wide diversity of chemical modifications following the oligosaccharide O-unit assembly. The present review is devoted to structural, serological, and genetic aspects of these modifications, including O-acetylation and phosphorylation with phosphoethanolamine that have been identified recently. The modifications confer the host with specific immunodeterminants (O-factors or O-antigen epitopes), which accounts for the antigenic diversity of S. flexneri considered as a virulence factor of the pathogen. Totally, 30 O-antigen variants have been recognized in these bacteria, the corresponding O-factors characterized using specific antibodies, and a significant extension of the serotyping scheme of S. flexneri on this basis is suggested. Multiple genes responsible for the O-antigen modifications and the resultant serotype conversions of S. flexneri have been identified. The genetic mechanisms of the O-antigen diversification by acquisition of mobile genetic elements, including prophages and plasmids, followed occasionally by gene mobilization and inactivation have been revealed. These findings further our understanding of the genetics and antigenicity of S. flexneri and assist control of shigellosis.
KEY WORDS: Shigella flexneri, O-antigen, O-polysaccharide structure, serotype-converting bacteriophage, transposon, plasmid, serotyping, immunodeterminant

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297915070093