Genetic diversity and structure in Escherichia coli populations

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Science  31 Oct 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4469, pp. 545-547
DOI: 10.1126/science.6999623


A survey of electrophoretic variation in 20 enzymes from 109 clones of escherichia coli from natural populations yielded an estimate of mean genetic diversity approximately twice that reported in an earlier study and four to five times larger than estimates fro most eukaryotic species. Despite this extensive variability, the number of distinctive genotypes apparently is rather limited. Identical clones were obtained from unassociated hosts, and a clone that is electrophoretically indistinguishable from the laboratory strain Escherichia coli K-12 was isolated from a human infant. The results suggest that rates of genetic recombination in natural populations of Escherichia coli are low. These findings have implications for our understanding of the genetic structure of Escherichia coli populations and the factors determining the amount of neutral gene variability in this bacterial species.

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