The dispersal of five group II introns among natural populations of Escherichia coli

Lixin Dai, Steven Zimmerly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Group II introns are self-splicing RNAs that also act as retroelements in bacteria, mitochondria, and chloroplasts. Group II introns were identified in Escherichia coli in 1994, but have not been characterized since, and, instead, other bacterial group II introns have been studied for splicing and mobility properties. Despite their apparent intractability, at least five distinct group II introns exist naturally in E. coli strains. To illuminate their function and learn how the introns have dispersed in their natural host, we have investigated their distribution in the ECOR reference collection. Two introns were cloned and sequenced to complete their partial sequences. Unexpectedly, southern blots showed all ECOR strains to contain fragments and/or full-length copies of group II introns, with some strains containing up to 15 intron copies. One intron, E.c.l4, has two natural homing sites in IS629 and IS911 elements, and the intron can be present in one, both, or neither homing site in a given strain. Nearly all strains that contain full-length introns also contain unfilled homing sites, suggesting either that mobility is highly inefficient or that most full-length copies are nonfunctional. The data indicate independent mobility of the introns, as well as mobility via the host DNA elements, and overall, the pattern of intron distribution resembles that of IS elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1294-1307
Number of pages14
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • ECOR strains
  • Retroelement
  • Reverse transcriptase
  • Ribozyme

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'The dispersal of five group II introns among natural populations of Escherichia coli'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this