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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Jul;4(7):548-55.

Source-sink dynamics of virulence evolution.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA.


To understand the evolution of genetic diversity within species--bacterial and others--we must dissect the first steps of genetic adaptation to novel habitats, particularly habitats that are suboptimal for sustained growth where there is strong selection for adaptive changes. Here, we present the view that bacterial human pathogens represent an excellent model for understanding the molecular mechanisms of the adaptation of a species to alternative habitats. In particular, bacterial pathogens allow us to develop analytical methods to detect genetic adaptation using an evolutionary 'source-sink' model, with which the evolution of bacterial pathogens can be seen from the angle of continuous switching between permanent (source) and transient (sink) habitats. The source-sink model provides a conceptual framework for understanding the population dynamics and molecular mechanisms of virulence evolution.

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