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Gene-centric intra- and inter-clade recombination in a context of Escherichia coli subpopulations

By Yu Kang, Xing Shi, Lina Yuan, Yanan Chu, Fei Chen, Zilong He, Zhancheng Gao, Xinmiao Jia, Richard Karlsson Linnér, Qin Ma, Jian Wang, Rongrong Fu, Jiayan Wu, Jingfa Xiao, Songnian Hu, Jun Yu

Posted 31 Mar 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/122713

Recombination is one of the most important mechanisms of prokaryotic species evolution but its exact roles are still in debate. Here we try to infer genome-wide recombination events within a species utilizing a dataset of 104 complete genomes of Escherichia coli from diverse origins, among which 45 from world-wide animal-hosts are in-house sequenced using SMRT (single-molecular real time) technology. Two major clades are identified based on evidences of ecological and physiological characteristics, as well as distinct genomic features implying scarce inter-clade genetic exchange. By comparing the synteny of identical fragments genome-widely searched for each genome pair, we achieve a fine-scale map of recombination within the population. The recombination is rather extensive within clade, which is able to break linkages between genes but does not interrupt core genome framework and primary metabolic portfolios possibly due to natural selection for physiological compatibility and ecological fitness. Meanwhile, the recombination between clades declines drastically as the phylogenetic distance increases, generally 10-fold reduced than those of the intra-clade, which establishes genetic barrier between clades. These empirical data of recombination suggest its critical role in the early stage of speciation, where recombination rate differs according to phylogentic distance. The extensive intra-clade recombination coheres sister strains into a quasi-sexual group and optimizes genes or alleles to streamline physiological activities, whereas shapely declined inter-clade recombination split the population into clades adaptive to divergent ecological niches.

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