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Mol Biol Evol. 1994 Nov;11(6):911-20.

Unusual pattern of bacterial ice nucleation gene evolution.

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Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry, University of Idaho, Moscow 83843.


Bacterial ice nucleation activity (INA+ phenotype) can be traced to the product of a single gene, ina. A remarkably sparse distribution of this phenotype within three bacterial genera indicates that the ina gene may have followed an unusual evolutionary path. Southern blot analyses, coupled with assays for ice-nucleating ability, revealed that within four bacterial species an ina gene is present in some strains but absent from others. Results of hybridization experiments using DNA fragments that flank the ina gene suggested that the genotypic dimorphism of ina may be anomalous. A phylogenetic analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences from a total of 14 ina+ and ina- bacterial strains indicated that the ina+ bacteria are not monophyletic but instead phylogenetically interspersed among ina- bacteria. The relationships of ina+ bacteria inferred from ina sequence did not coincide with those inferred from the 16S data. These results suggest the possibility of horizontal transfer in the evolution of bacterial ina genes.

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