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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 13;108(50):20154-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1109451108. Epub 2011 Nov 29.

Similarity of genes horizontally acquired by Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica is evidence of a supraspecies pangenome.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Most bacterial and archaeal genomes contain many genes with little or no similarity to other genes, a property that impedes identification of gene origins. By comparing the codon usage of genes shared among strains (primarily vertically inherited genes) and genes unique to one strain (primarily recently horizontally acquired genes), we found that the plurality of unique genes in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica are much more similar to each other than are their vertically inherited genes. We conclude that E. coli and S. enterica derive these unique genes from a common source, a supraspecies phylogenetic group that includes the organisms themselves. The phylogenetic range of the sharing appears to include other (but not all) members of the Enterobacteriaceae. We found evidence of similar gene sharing in other bacterial and archaeal taxa. Thus, we conclude that frequent gene exchange, particularly that of genetic novelties, extends well beyond accepted species boundaries.

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