Rapid evolution and the importance of recombination to the gastroenteric pathogen Campylobacter jejuni

Daniel J. Wilson, Edith Gabriel, Andrew J H Leatherbarrow, John Cheesbrough, Steven Gee, Eric Bolton, Andrew Fox, C. Anthony Hart, Peter J. Diggle, Paul Fearnhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Responsible for the majority of bacterial gastroenteritis in the developed world, Campylobacter jejuni is a pervasive pathogen of humans and animals, but its evolution is obscure. In this paper, we exploit contemporary genetic diversity and empirical evidence to piece together the evolutionary history of C. jejuni and quantify its evolutionary potential. Our combined population genetics-phylogenetics approach reveals a surprising picture. Campylobacter jejuni is a rapidly evolving species, subject to intense purifying selection that purges 60% of novel variation, but possessing a massive evolutionary potential. The low mutation rate is offset by a large effective population size so that a mutation at any site can occur somewhere in the population within the space of a week. Recombination has a fundamental role, generating diversity at twice the rate of de novo mutation, and facilitating gene flow between C. jejuni and its sister species Campylobacter coli. We attempt to calibrate the rate of molecular evolution in C. jejuni based solely on within-species variation. The rates we obtain are up to 1,000 times faster than conventional estimates, placing the C. jejuni-C. coli split at the time of the Neolithic revolution. We weigh the plausibility of such recent bacterial evolution against alternative explanations and discuss the evidence required to settle the issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-397
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Coalescent
  • Molecular clock
  • Neolithic
  • Recombination
  • Selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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  • Cite this

    Wilson, D. J., Gabriel, E., Leatherbarrow, A. J. H., Cheesbrough, J., Gee, S., Bolton, E., Fox, A., Hart, C. A., Diggle, P. J., & Fearnhead, P. (2009). Rapid evolution and the importance of recombination to the gastroenteric pathogen Campylobacter jejuni. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 26(2), 385-397. https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msn264