Improvement of differentiation and interpretability of spoligotyping for Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex isolates by introduction of new spacer oligonucleotides

A. G.M. Van der Zanden, K. Kremer, L. M. Schouls, K. Caimi, A. Cataldi, A. Hulleman, N. J.D. Nagelkerke, D. Van Soolingen

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58 Citations (Scopus)


The direct repeat (DR) region in Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex strains is composed of multiple well-conserved 36-bp DRs interspersed with nonrepetitive DNA spacer sequences of similar size. Clinical isolates show extensive polymorphism in this DR region, and this has led to the development of a 43-spacer reversed line blot methodology: Spoligotyping. Although this method has contributed significantly to the molecular epidemiology of tuberculosis in the last decade, the discriminatory power and the readability of this method were not found to be optimal. In order to improve the discriminatory power, the usefulness of 43 redesigned oligonucleotides and the usefulness of 51 new spacer oligonucleotides were evaluated. For 314 M. tuberculosis complex strains isolated in the central part of The Netherlands over a 5-year period, 264 different IS6110 RFLP types could be distinguished, and 160 different spoligotype patterns were identified by traditional spoligotyping. After the introduction of 51 new spacer oligonucleotides, 14 additional spoligotypes were recognized. This enabled us to split 11 clusters of isolates identified by the traditional spoligotyping. Furthermore, on the basis of the new spacer oligonucleotides a dichotomy was found among the Beijing genotype isolates. Among 76 Mycobacterium bovis strains, 20 patterns were found by traditional spoligotyping and 30 patterns were found by novel probe spoligotyping, respectively. Nine M. bovis subsp. caprae isolates yielded six patterns by traditional spoligotyping and eight patterns by novel probe spoligotyping. A part of the redesigned oligonucleotides slightly improved the reading of spoligotype patterns. The reproducibility of spoligotyping, based on internal control probes, invariably yielded a high score; only 4 (1%) of the 314 patient isolates gave discrepant results. Analysis of a set of 31 duplicate M. tuberculosis complex strains demonstrated a 10% error rate for the identification of blinded duplicate samples. In a redundancy analysis, 40 essential spacer oligonucleotides of the 94-spacer sequences were selected, yielding the same number of spoligotype patterns. We propose to leave the traditional commercialized first-generation membrane for spoligotyping unchanged for current applications and to introduce a second-generation spoligotyping membrane whenever extended discrimination is required, e.g., for low-copy-number IS6110 strains or for phylogenetic studies of Beijing genotype strains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4628-4639
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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