Study of the capsular genome of pneumococcus has shown that it controls a multiplicity of biochemical reactions essential to the synthesis of capsular polysaccharide.
Mutation affecting any one of several biochemical reactions concerned with capsular synthesis may result in loss of capsulation without alteration of other biochemical functions similarly concerned.
Mutations affecting the synthesis of uronic acids are an important cause of loss of capsulation and of virulence by strains of pneumococcus Type I and Type III.
The capsular genome appears to have a specific location in the total genome of the cell, this locus being occupied by the capsular genome of whatever capsular type is expressed by the cell.
Transformation of capsulated or of non-capsulated pneumococci to heterologous capsular type results probably from a genetic exchange followed by the development of a new biosynthetic pathway in the transformed cell. The new capsular genome is transferred to the transformed cell as a single particle of DNA.
Binary capsulation results from the simultaneous presence within the pneumococcal cell of two capsular genomes, one mutated, the other normal. Interaction between the biochemical pathways controlled by the two capsular genomes leads to augmentation of the phenotypic expression of the product controlled by one and to partial suppression of the product determined by the other.
Knowledge of the biochemical basis of binary capsulation can be used to indicate the presence of uronic acid in the capsular polysaccharide of a pneurnococcal type the composition of the capsule of which is unknown.