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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 May 15;90(10):4384-8.

How clonal are bacteria?

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, United Kingdom.


Data from multilocus enzyme electrophoresis of bacterial populations were analyzed using a statistical test designed to detect associations between genes at different loci. Some species (e.g., Salmonella) were found to be clonal at all levels of analysis. At the other extreme, Neisseria gonorrhoeae is panmictic, with random association between loci. Two intermediate types of population structure were also found. Neisseria meningitidis displays what we have called an "epidemic" structure. There is significant association between loci, but this arises only because of the recent, explosive, increase in particular electrophoretic types; when this effect is eliminated the population is found to be effectively panmictic. In contrast, linkage disequilibrium in a population of Rhizobium meliloti exists because the sample consisted of two genetically isolated divisions, often fixed for different alleles: within each division association between loci was almost random. The method of analysis is appropriate whenever there is doubt about the extent of genetic recombination between members of a population. To illustrate this we analyzed data on protozoan parasites and again found panmictic, epidemic, and clonal population structures.

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