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Mol Biol Evol. 1995 Mar;12(2):198-207.

Dynamics of IS-related genetic rearrangements in resting Escherichia coli K-12.

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Department of Microbiology, Biozentrum of the University, Basel, Switzerland.


An analysis of restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) using eight residential insertion sequence (IS) elements as hybridization probes reveals that the genome of resting bacteria is more dynamic than it was long believed. Escherichia coli strains stored in agar stabs for up to 30 yr accumulate a genetic variation which is correlated to time of storage. This spontaneous mutagenesis is often IS-specific, with particularly high activity for IS5, and thus suggests that transpositional DNA rearrangements are a major cause for the observed genetic polymorphism. The RFLP patterns indicate a burst of IS30 transposition to occur occasionally. Mutation rate is estimated by two different methods to roughly 10(-5) IS-related DNA rearrangements per bacterial chromosome per hour of storage for the eight IS elements studied. A pedigree derived from the RFLP data reveals that populations had evolved independently in each stab and showed no signs of convergence. Relics of an assumed ancestral population were still present in the stab cultures, but the elder stabs provided mostly mutants. These results indicate that cells placed under nutritional deprivation might have a highly plastic genome and suggest that such plasticity might play an adaptive role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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