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Elife. 2015 Mar 25;4. doi: 10.7554/eLife.05826.

The unexhausted potential of E. coli.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, United States; BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, East Lansing, United States.


E. coli's hardiness, versatility, broad palate and ease of handling have made it the most intensively studied and best understood organism on the planet. However, research on E.coli has primarily examined it as a model organism, one that is abstracted from any natural history. But E. coli is far more than just a microbial lab rat. Rather, it is a highly diverse organism with a complex, multi-faceted niche in the wild. Recent studies of 'wild' E. coli have, for example, revealed a great deal about its presence in the environment, its diversity and genomic evolution, as well as its role in the human microbiome and disease. These findings have shed light on aspects of its biology and ecology that pose far-reaching questions and illustrate how an appreciation of E. coli's natural history can expand its value as a model organism.


E. coli; ecology; evolutionary biology; genomics; infectious disease; microbiology; microbiome; model organisms; natural history; pathogens; the natural history of model organisms

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