High Mutation Frequencies Among Escherichia coli and Salmonella Pathogens

Science  15 Nov 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5290, pp. 1208-1211
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5290.1208


Here it is reported that the incidence of mutators among isolates of pathogenic Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica is high (over 1 percent). These findings counter the theory, founded on studies with laboratory-attenuated strains, that suggests mutators are rare among bacterial populations. Defects in methyl-directed mismatch repair underlie all mutator phenotypes described here. Of nine independently derived hypermutable strains, seven contained a defective mutS allele. Because these mutant alleles increase the mutation rate and enhance recombination among diverse species, these studies may help explain both the rapid emergence of antibiotic resistance and the penetrance of virulence genes within the prokaryotic community.

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