Nucleotide polymorphism in colicin E2 gene clusters: evidence for nonneutral evolution.


Tan Y, Riley MA.


To explore the molecular mechanisms behind the diversification of colicin gene clusters, we examined DNA sequence polymorphism for the colicin gene clusters of 14 colicin E2 (ColE2) plasmids obtained from natural isolates of Escherichia coli. Two types of ColE2 plasmids are revealed, with type II gene clusters generated by recombination between type I ColE2 and ColE7 gene clusters. The levels and patterns of DNA polymorphism are different between the two types. Type I polymorphism is distributed evenly along the gene cluster, while type II accumulates polymorphism at an elevated rate in the 5' end of the colicin gene. These differences may be explained by recombinational origins of type II gene clusters. The pattern of divergence between the ColE2 gene cluster and its close relative ColE9 is not correlated with the pattern of polymorphism within ColE2, suggesting that this gene cluster is not evolving in a neutral fashion. A statistical test confirms significant departures from the predictions of neutrality. These data lend further support to the hypothesis that colicin gene clusters may evolve under the influence of nonneutral forces.

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