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J Bacteriol. 2007 Jan;189(2):342-50. Epub 2006 Nov 10.

Molecular evolution of typical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli: clonal analysis by multilocus sequence typing and virulence gene allelic profiling.

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  • 1National Food Safety & Toxicology Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) infections are a leading cause of infantile diarrhea in developing nations. Typical EPEC isolates are differentiated from other types of pathogenic E. coli by two distinctive phenotypes, attaching effacement and localized adherence. The genes specifying these phenotypes are found on the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) and the EPEC adherence factor (EAF) plasmid. To describe how typical EPEC has evolved, we characterized a diverse collection of strains by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and performed restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of three virulence genes (eae, bfpA, and perA) to assess allelic variation. Among 129 strains representing 20 O-serogroups, 21 clonal genotypes were identified using MLST. RFLP analysis resolved nine eae, nine bfpA, and four perA alleles. Each bfpA allele was associated with only one perA allele class, suggesting that recombination has not played a large role in shuffling the bfpA and perA loci between separate EAF plasmids. The distribution of eae alleles among typical EPEC strains is more concordant with the clonal relationships than the distribution of the EAF plasmid types. These results provide further support for the hypothesis that the EPEC pathotype has evolved multiple times within E. coli through separate acquisitions of the LEE island and EAF plasmid.

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