Serovars E, F, and D are the most prevalent Chlamydia trachomatis strains worldwide. This prevalence may relate to epitopes that enhance infectivity and transmission. There are numerous major outer membrane protein (MOMP) gene (omp1) variants described for D and F but few for E. However, omp1 constant regions are rarely sequenced yet, they may contain mutations that affect the structure/function relationship of the protein. Further, differentiating variants that occur as a result of selection from variants that contain random mutations without biologic impact is difficult. We investigated 67 urogenital E serovars and found 11 (16%) variants which contained 16 (53%) nonconservative amino acid changes. Using signature-pattern analysis, 57 amino acids throughout MOMP differentiated the E sequence set from the non-E sequence set, thus defining E strains. Four E variants did not match this signature-pattern, and, by phenetic analyses, formed new phylogenetic branches, suggesting that they may be biologically distinct variants. Our analyses offer for the first time a unique approach for identifying variants that may occur from selection and may affect infectivity and transmission. Understanding the mutation trends, phylogeny, and molecular epidemiology of E variants is essential for designing public health control interventions and a vaccine.
D Dean, K Millman