Population genomics and the bacterial species concept.


MA Riley, Lizotte-Waniewski M.


In recent years, the importance of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in bacterial evolution has been elevated to such a degree that many bacteriologists now question the very existence of bacterial species. If gene transfer is as rampant as comparative genomic studies have suggested, how could bacterial species survive such genomic fluidity? And yet, most bacteriologists recognize, and name, as species, clusters of bacterial isolates that share complex phenotypic properties. The Core Genome Hypothesis (CGH) has been proposed to explain this apparent paradox of fluid bacterial genomes associated with stable phenotypic clusters. It posits that there is a core of genes responsible for maintaining the species-specific phenotypic clusters observed throughout bacterial diversity and argues that, even in the face of substantial genomic fluidity, bacterial species can be rationally identified and named.

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