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Microbes Infect. 2006 Jun;8(7):1702-13. Epub 2006 Apr 21.

Phylogenetic relationships among clonal groups of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli as assessed by multi-locus sequence analysis.

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Mucosal and Vaccine Research Center, Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Infectious Diseases (111F), Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA.


The evolutionary origins of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) remain uncertain despite these organisms' relevance to human disease. A valid understanding of ExPEC phylogeny is needed as a framework against which the observed distribution of virulence factors and clinical associations can be analyzed. Accordingly, phylogenetic relationships were defined by multi-locus sequence analysis among 44 representatives of selected ExPEC clonal groups and the E. coli Reference (ECOR) collection. Recombination, which significantly obscured the phylogenetic signal for several strains, was dealt with by excluding strains or specific sequences. Conflicting overall phylogenies, and internal phylogenies for virulence-associated phylogenetic group B2, were inferred depending on the specific dataset (i.e., how extensively purged of recombination), outgroup (Salmonella enterica and/or Escherichia fergusonii), and analysis method (neighbor joining, maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, or Bayesian likelihood). Nonetheless, the major E. coli phylogenetic groups A, B1, and B2 were consistently well resolved, as was a major sub-component of group D and an ECOR 37-O157:H7 clade. Moreover, nine important ExPEC clonal groups within groups B2 and D, characterized by serotypes O6:K2:H1, O18:K1:H7, O6:H31, and O4:K+:H+ (from group B2), and O1:K1:H-, O7:K1:H-, O157:K+:H (non-7), O15:K52:H1, and O11/17/77:K52:H18 ("clonal group A") (from group D), were consistently well resolved, regardless of clinical background (cystitis, pyelonephritis, neonatal meningitis, sepsis, or fecal), host group, geographical origin, and virulence profile. Among the group B2-derived clonal groups the O6:K2:H1 clade appeared basal. Within group D, "clonal group A" and the O15:K52:H1 clonal group were consistently placed with ECOR 47 and ECOR 44, respectively, as nearest neighbors. These findings clarify phylogenetic relationships among key ExPEC clonal groups but also emphasize that recombination appears to obscure the oldest evolutionary relationships, despite extensive targeted sequencing and use of a wide range of analysis techniques.

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