Real-time PCR for quantitative analysis of human commensal Escherichia coli populations reveals a high frequency of subdominant phylogroups.
ABSTRACT: Escherichia coli is divided into four main phylogenetic groups, which each exhibit ecological specialization. To understand the population structure of E. coli in its primary habitat, we directly assessed the relative proportions of these phylogroups from the stools of 100 healthy human subjects using a new real-time PCR method, which allows a large number of samples to be studied. The detection threshold for our technique was 0.1% of the E. coli population, i.e., 10(5) CFU/g of feces; in other methods based on individual colony analysis, the threshold is 10%. One, two, three, or four phylogenetic groups were simultaneously found in 21%, 48%, 21%, and 8% of the subjects, respectively. Phylogroups present at a threshold of less than 10% of the population were found in 40% of the subjects, revealing high within-individual diversity. Phylogroups A and B2 were detected in 74% and 70% of the subjects, respectively; phylogroups B1 and D were detected in 36% and 32%, respectively. When phylogroup B2 was dominant, it tended not to cooccur with other phylogroups. In contrast, other phylogroups were present when phylogroup A was dominant. These data indicate a complex pattern of interactions between the members of a single species within the human gut and identify a reservoir of clones that are present at a low frequency. The presence of these minor clones could explain the fluctuation in the composition of the E. coli microbiota within single individuals that may be seen over time. They could also constitute reservoirs of virulent and/or resistant strains.
PROVIDER: S-EPMC3754702 | BioStudies |