Recombinant transfer in the basic genome of Escherichia coli

Purushottam D. Dixit, Tin Yau Pang, F. William Studier, Sergei Maslov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An approximation to the ∼4-Mbp basic genome shared by 32 strains of Escherichia coli representing six evolutionary groups has been derived and analyzed computationally. A multiple alignment of the 32 complete genome sequences was filtered to remove mobile elements and identify the most reliable ∼90% of the aligned length of each of the resulting 496 basic-genome pairs. Patterns of single base-pair mutations (SNPs) in aligned pairs distinguish clonally inherited regions from regions where either genome has acquired DNA fragments from diverged genomes by homologous recombination since their last common ancestor. Such recombinant transfer is pervasive across the basic genome, mostly between genomes in the same evolutionary group, and generates many unique mosaic patterns. The six least-diverged genome pairs have one or two recombinant transfers of length ∼40-115 kbp (and few if any other transfers), each containing one or more gene clusters known to confer strong selective advantage in some environments. Moderately diverged genome pairs (0.4-1% SNPs) show mosaic patterns of interspersed clonal and recombinant regions of varying lengths throughout the basic genome, whereas more highly diverged pairs within an evolutionary group or pairs between evolutionary groups having >1.3% SNPs have few clonal matches longer than a few kilobase pairs. Many recombinant transfers appear to incorporate fragments of the entering DNA produced by restriction systems of the recipient cell. A simple computational model can closely fit the data. Most recombinant transfers seem likely to be due to generalized transduction by coevolving populations of phages, which could efficiently distribute variability throughout bacterial genomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9070-9075
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 21 2015


  • Basic genome
  • Core genome
  • E. Coli evolution
  • Generalized transduction
  • Recombinant transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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