Food Science and Technology Department


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Published in JOURNAL OF BACTERIOLOGY (2001) 183:23 p.6885-6897; Copyright 2001 American Society for Microbiology; Used by permission


The O157:H7 lineage of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli is a geographically disseminated complex of highly related genotypes that share common ancestry. The common clone that is found worldwide carries several markers of events in its evolution, including markers for acquisition of virulence genes and loss of physiological characteristics, such as sorbitol fermentation ability and β-glucuronidase production. Populations of variants that are distinct with respect to motility and the sorbitol and β-glucuronidase markers appear to have diverged at several points along the inferred evolutionary pathway. In addition to these variants, distinct subpopulations of the contemporary non-sorbitol-fermenting, β-glucuronidase-negative O157:H7 clone were recently detected among bovine and human clinical isolates in the United Stares by using highresolution genome comparison. In order to determine if these recently described subpopulations were derived from a regional or ancestral divergence event, we used octamer-based genome scanning, marker sorting, and DNA sequence analysis to examine their phylogenetic relationship to populations of non-sorbitol-fermenting, β-glucuronidase negative O157:H7 and O157:H strains from Australia. The inferred phylogeny is consistent with the hypothesis that subpopulations on each continent resulted from geographic spread of an ancestral divergence event and subsequent expansion of distinct subpopulations. Marker sorting and DNA sequence analyses identified sets of monophyletic markers consistent with the pattern of divergence and demonstrated that phylogeographic variation occurred through emergence of regional subclones and concentration of regional polymorphisms among distinct subpopulations. DNA sequence analysis of representative polyphyletic markers showed that genome diversity accrued through random drift and bacteriophage-mediated events.

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