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Genome Res. 2009 Jul;19(7):1224-32. doi: 10.1101/gr.089250.108. Epub 2009 Mar 20.

Pervasive, genome-wide positive selection leading to functional divergence in the bacterial genus Campylobacter.

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Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


An open question in bacterial genomics is the role that adaptive evolution of the core genome plays in diversification and adaptation of bacterial species, and how this might differ between groups of bacteria occupying different environmental circumstances. The genus Campylobacter encompasses several important human and animal enteric pathogens, with genome sequence data available for eight species. We estimate the Campylobacter core genome at 647 genes, with 92.5% of the nonrecombinant core genome loci under positive selection in at least one lineage and the same gene frequently under positive selection in multiple lineages. Tests are provided that reject recombination, saturation, and variation in codon usage bias as factors contributing to this high level of selection. We suggest this genome-wide adaptive evolution may result from a Red Queen macroevolutionary dynamic, in which species are involved in competition for resources within the mammalian and/or vertebrate gastrointestinal tract. Much reduced levels of positive selection evident in Streptococcus, as reported by the authors in an earlier work, may be a consequence of these taxa inhabiting less species-rich habitats, and more unique niches. Despite many common loci under positive selection in multiple Campylobacter lineages, we found no evidence for molecular adaptive convergence at the level of the same or adjacent codons, or even protein domains. Taken collectively, these results describe the diversification of a bacterial genus that involves pervasive natural selection pressure across virtually the entire genome, with this adaptation occurring in different ways in different lineages, despite the species tendency toward a common gastrointestinal habitat.

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