Genetic exchange across a species boundary in the archaeal genus ferroplasma

John M. Eppley, Gene W. Tyson, Wayne M. Getz, Jillian F. Banfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Speciation as the result of barriers to genetic exchange is the foundation for the general biological species concept. However, the relevance of genetic exchange for defining microbial species is uncertain. In fact, the extent to which microbial populations comprise discrete clusters of evolutionarily related organisms is generally unclear. Metagenomic data from an acidophilic microbial community enabled a genomewide, comprehensive investigation of variation in individuals from two coexisting natural archaeal populations. Individuals are clustered into species-like groups in which cohesion appears to be maintained by homologous recombination. We quantified the dependence of recombination frequency on sequence similarity genomewide and found a decline in recombination with increasing evolutionary distance. Both inter- and intralineage recombination frequencies have a log-linear dependence on sequence divergence. In the declining phase of interspecies genetic exchange, recombination events cluster near the origin of replication and are localized by tRNAs and short regions of unusually high sequence similarity. The breakdown of genetic exchange with increasing sequence divergence could contribute to, or explain, the establishment and preservation of the observed population clusters in a manner consistent with the biological species concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-416
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes

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