Genome economization and a new approach to the species concept in bacteria

T. Vellai, A. Kovács, G. Kovács, Csaba Ortutay, Gábor Vida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The direct experimental evidence presented here shows that Escherichia coli cells can lose a part of their DNA during prolonged starvation. Under stringent conditions cells with a reduced DNA content achieve reproductive advantage over those that maintain their original genome size. Thus, the majority or nearly all of the cells of a long-starved bacterial population undergo genome size reduction. The loss of DNA seems to occur at random in different cells of a population and, thus, their DNA content may vary significantly from one another. The heterogeneity at the DNA level seems to be reflected in conspicuous morphological variability as well. We suggest that, in evolutionary terms, the general dynamics of bacterial genome organization involve two contrasting mechanisms: genome economization (size reduction by DNA loss) and genome loading (acquisition of exogenous DNA and its maintenance in the genome). The former, strengthening the so-called r strategy, might have resulted in the limited genome size of prokaryotes ranging up to 9.5 Mb. The latter explains the widespread horizontal, interspecific gene transfer (general genetic mixing) in bacteria. In the light of the above findings we propose a species concept in bacteria which is comparable to the biological species concept based on reproductive incompatibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1953-1958
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume266
Issue number1432
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 7 1999

Fingerprint

species concept
Bacteria
genome
Genes
Genome Size
Genome
DNA
bacterium
bacteria
cells
Gene transfer
Bacterial Genomes
Horizontal Gene Transfer
gene transfer
prokaryote
incompatibility
prokaryotic cells
Starvation
starvation
Escherichia coli

Keywords

  • Genome economization
  • Genome organization
  • Lateral gene transfer
  • Microbial diversity
  • Species concept, bacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Genome economization and a new approach to the species concept in bacteria. / Vellai, T.; Kovács, A.; Kovács, G.; Ortutay, Csaba; Vida, Gábor.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 266, No. 1432, 07.10.1999, p. 1953-1958.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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