Adapting to the host

Escherichia coli Bacterial virulence results from the interaction between bacteria and their hosts. This interaction provides selection pressure for bacterial adaptation towards increased fitness or virulence. Basic mechanisms involved in bacterial adaptation at the genetic level are point mutations and recombination. As bacterial genome plasticity is higher in vivo than in vitro, host-pathogen interaction may facilitate bacterial adaptation. Comparative genomics has so far been almost entirely focused on genomic changes upon prolonged bacterial growth in vitro.

To achieve a better comprehension of bacterial genome plasticity and the capacity to adapt in response to their host, researchers studied bacterial genome evolution in vivo. They analyzed the impact of individual hosts on genome-wide bacterial adaptation under controlled conditions, by administration of an asymptomatic E. coli isolate to several hosts. Interestingly, the different hosts appeared to personalize their microflora. Adaptation at the genomic level included point mutations in several metabolic and virulence-related genes, often affecting pleiotropic regulators, but re-isolates from each patient showed a distinct pattern of genetic alterations in addition to random changes. These results provide new insights into bacterial traits under selection during E. coli in vivo growth, further explaining the mechanisms of bacterial adaptation to specific host environments.

Host Imprints on Bacterial Genomes – Rapid, Divergent Evolution in Individual Patients. (2010) PLoS Pathog 6(8): e1001078. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001078
Bacterial virulence results from the interaction between bacteria and their hosts. This interaction provides selection pressure for bacterial adaptation towards increased fitness or virulence. Basic mechanisms involved in bacterial adaptation at the genetic level are point mutations and recombination. As bacterial genome plasticity is higher in vivo than in vitro, host-pathogen interaction may facilitate bacterial adaptation. Comparative genomics has so far been almost entirely focused on genomic changes upon prolonged bacterial growth in vitro. To achieve a better comprehension of bacterial genome plasticity and the capacity to adapt in response to their host, we studied bacterial genome evolution in vivo. We analyzed the impact of individual hosts on genome-wide bacterial adaptation under controlled conditions, by administration of asymptomatic bacteriuria E. coli isolate 83972 to several hosts. Interestingly, the different hosts appeared to personalize their microflora. Adaptation at the genomic level included point mutations in several metabolic and virulence-related genes, often affecting pleiotropic regulators, but re-isolates from each patient showed a distinct pattern of genetic alterations in addition to random changes. Our results provide new insights into bacterial traits under selection during E. coli in vivo growth, further explaining the mechanisms of bacterial adaptation to specific host environments.

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