When pilus+ Gc were introduced into a male subject's urethra, they gave rise to pilus+ variants whose pilin mRNAs differed from that of input Gc. The differences stemmed from the Gc genome's single complete pilin gene having undergone gene conversion by different partial pilin genes' sequences and by different length stretches of a single partial pilin gene. In some instances, the variant's pilin mRNA appeared to reflect two independent gene-conversion events that used sequences from two different partial pilin genes. The resulting variants' pilins exhibited antigenic differences compared with the pilin polypeptide of input Gc; these differences were discernible by immunoblotting with mAbs. Amino acid and antigenic changes occurred in a segment of the variants' pilin polypeptides that previously was thought to be conserved or constant in sequence.

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