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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 31;6(1):e16392. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016392.

Quantification of ploidy in proteobacteria revealed the existence of monoploid, (mero-)oligoploid and polyploid species.

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Biocentre, Institute for Molecular Biosciences, Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany.


Bacteria are generally assumed to be monoploid (haploid). This assumption is mainly based on generalization of the results obtained with the most intensely studied model bacterium, Escherichia coli (a gamma-proteobacterium), which is monoploid during very slow growth. However, several species of proteobacteria are oligo- or polyploid, respectively. To get a better overview of the distribution of ploidy levels, genome copy numbers were quantified in four species of three different groups of proteobacteria. A recently developed Real Time PCR approach, which had been used to determine the ploidy levels of halophilic archaea, was optimized for the quantification of genome copy numbers of bacteria. Slow-growing (doubling time 103 minutes) and fast-growing (doubling time 25 minutes) E. coli cultures were used as a positive control. The copy numbers of the origin and terminus region of the chromosome were determined and the results were in excellent agreement with published data. The approach was also used to determine the ploidy levels of Caulobacter crescentus (an alpha-proteobacterium) and Wolinella succinogenes (an epsilon-proteobacterium), both of which are monoploid. In contrast, Pseudomonas putida (a gamma-proteobacterium) contains 20 genome copies and is thus polyploid. A survey of the proteobacteria with experimentally-determined genome copy numbers revealed that only three to four of 11 species are monoploid and thus monoploidy is not typical for proteobacteria. The ploidy level is not conserved within the groups of proteobacteria, and there are no obvious correlations between the ploidy levels with other parameters like genome size, optimal growth temperature or mode of life.

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