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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2002 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

The Evolutionary Ecology of Escherichia coli

Abundantly studied and much feared, E. coli has more genomic plasticity than once believed and may have followed various routes to become a pathogen

Valeria Souza, Amanda Castillo, Luis Eguiarte

Figure 11. Cassettes of pathogenic genes . . .Click to Enlarge Image

The genetics and physiology of Escherichia coli have been well studied, but little is know about the ecology and evolutionary biology of this often dangerous bacterium. Classic studies, mostly based on human strains, suggested that E. coli was a clonal organism exhibiting little genetic recombination. The authors have built a collection of more than 2,000 bacterial strains. Their population-genetics and molecular-evolution data reveal a highly diverse organism with a dynamic genome; in particular, pathogenicity can develop rapidly. The authors describe how.


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