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Genetics. Feb 2003; 163(2): 475–483.
PMCID: PMC1462453

Molecular evolution of the Escherichia coli chromosome. VI. Two regions of high effective recombination.


Two 6- to 8-min regions, centered respectively near 45 min (O-antigen region) and 99 min (restriction-modification region) on the Escherichia coli chromosome, display unusually high variability among 11 otherwise very similar strains. This variation, revealed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and nucleotide sequence comparisons, appears to be due to a great local increase in the retention frequency of recombinant replacements. We infer a two-step mechanism. The first step is the acquisition of a small stretch of DNA from a phylogenetically distant source. The second is the successful retransmission of the imported DNA, together with flanking native DNA, to other strains of E. coli. Each cell containing the newly transferred DNA has a very high selective advantage until it reaches a high frequency and (in the O-antigen case) is recognized by the new host's immune system. A high selective advantage increases the probability of retention greatly; the effective recombination rate is the product of the basic recombination rate and the probability of retention. Nearby nucleotide sequences clockwise from the O-antigen (rfb) region are correlated with specific O antigens, confirming local hitchhiking. Comparable selection involving imported restriction endonuclease genes is proposed for the region near 99 min.

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Selected References

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