In September 1997, the complete genome sequence of Escherichia coli was published. E. coli bacteria live in the lower intestinal tract of animals. It is one of the many bacteria that reside in our bodies, normally causing no harm. Biochemists and geneticists had long used E. coli to study the basic chemical reactions of life and to obtain some of the first clues about how gene action is regulated. The complete sequence of the E. coli genome was expected to help scientists learn even more about a bacterium they had studied for many years.
The strain of E. coli used for the sequencing project is not a pathogen (that is, it does not cause disease). However, some strains of E. coli can cause illness, such as food poisoning. Comparing the normal strain with pathogenic strains is expected to help suggest treatments for these illnesses and strategies to prevent infection.
The E. coli genome consists of about 4,600,000 base pairs and contains approximately 4,000 genes.
Blattner, F.R., Plunkett, G. 3rd, Bloch, C.A., Perna, N.T., Burland, V., Riley, M., Collado-Vides, J., et al. The complete genome sequence of Escherichia coli K-12. Science, 277:1453-74. 1997. [Full Text]
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Last Updated: May 28, 2013