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Bacterial Evolutionary Genetics

Course Numbers: OCMB - 6010, BMME - 6700

Microbial populations evolve and adapt to their surroundings in rapid and facile ways. Numerous genetic mechanisms will be discussed that can rapidly diversify or homogenize bacterial populations including hypermutation, recombination, and the selective deletion of DNA. Many of these adaptive changes lead to the acquisition of dangerous traits among bacteria including enhanced virulence attributes, multi‐drug resistance, and unusual tolerance to environmental insults. In addition, methods and assays capable of detecting and measuring these kinds of evolutionary changes among bacterial species and strains will be reviewed. Finally, a survey of analytical approaches currently deployed for ascertaining population and evolutionary diversity within a bacterial population will be undertaken.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • recognize and understand the role of bacterial mutators and the hypermutable phenotype in the persistence and survival of bacterial populations
  • comprehend the importance and impact of horizontal gene transfer and genetic recombination on the evolutionary structure of the bacterial strain and bacterial population
  • explain the emergence of dangerous phenotypes within bacterial populations including antibiotic resistance, virulence factors, and stress responses.
  • detect and quantify the presence and extent of adaptive evolutionary mechanisms including recombination among bacterial species and strains
  • understand the importance and roles of next-generation strategies deployed for effectively measuring populational diversity within a bacterial species


Miller, RV., Day, M. 2004. Microbial Evolution: Gene Establishment, Survival, and Exchange. ASM Press. ISBN: 978-1555812713.

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