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A clonal lineage of Escherichia coli known as ST131 has emerged as a dominating strain type causing extraintestinal infections in humans. The evolutionary history of ST131 E. coli is now well understood. However, the role of plasmids in ST131’s evolutionary history is poorly defined. This study utilized real-time, single-molecule sequencing to compare plasmids from various current and historical lineages of ST131. From this work, it was determined that a series of plasmid gains, losses, and recombinational events has led to the currently circulating plasmids of ST131 strains. These plasmids appear to have evolved to acquire similar gene clusters on multiple occasions, suggesting possible plasmid-mediated convergent evolution leading to evolutionary success. These plasmids also appear to be better suited to exist in specific strains of ST131 due to coadaptive mutations. Overall, a series of events has enabled the evolution of ST131 plasmids, possibly contributing to the lineage’s success.

Original publication




Journal article




American Society for Microbiology

Publication Date