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Trends Microbiol. 2010 Jul;18(7):315-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2010.04.002. Epub 2010 May 6.

Impact of recombination on bacterial evolution.

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Department of Statistics, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.


Genetic exchange plays a defining role in the evolution of many bacteria. The recent accumulation of nucleotide sequence data from multiple members of diverse bacterial genera has facilitated comparative studies that have revealed many features of this process. Here we focus on genetic exchange that has involved homologous recombination and illustrate how nucleotide sequence data have furthered our understanding of: (i) the frequency of recombination; (ii) the impact of recombination in different parts of the genome; and (iii) patterns of gene flow within bacterial populations. Summarizing the results obtained for a range of bacteria, we survey evidence indicating that the extent and nature of recombination vary widely among microbiological species and often among lineages assigned to the same microbiological species. These results have important implications in studies ranging from epidemiological investigations to examination of the bacterial species problem.

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