Genomic population structure associated with repeated escape of Salmonella enterica ATCC14028s from the laboratory into nature

ATCC14028s Study Group

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Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strain ATCC14028s is commercially available from multiple national type culture collections, and has been widely used since 1960 for quality control of growth media and experiments on fitness ("laboratory evolution"). ATCC14028s has been implicated in multiple cross-contaminations in the laboratory, and has also caused multiple laboratory infections and one known attempt at bioterrorism. According to hierarchical clustering of 3002 core gene sequences, ATCC14028s belongs to HierCC cluster HC20_373 in which most internal branch lengths are only one to three SNPs long. Many natural Typhimurium isolates from humans, domesticated animals and the environment also belong to HC20_373, and their core genomes are almost indistinguishable from those of laboratory strains. These natural isolates have infected humans in Ireland and Taiwan for decades, and are common in the British Isles as well as the Americas. The isolation history of some of the natural isolates confirms the conclusion that they do not represent recent contamination by the laboratory strain, and 10% carry plasmids or bacteriophages which have been acquired in nature by HGT from unrelated bacteria. We propose that ATCC14028s has repeatedly escaped from the laboratory environment into nature via laboratory accidents or infections, but the escaped micro-lineages have only a limited life span. As a result, there is a genetic gap separating HC20_373 from its closest natural relatives due to a divergence between them in the late 19(th) century followed by repeated extinction events of escaped HC20_373.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1009820
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number9
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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