Basis for the extraordinary genetic stability of anthrax

Johnathan L. Kiel, Jill E. Parker, Homer Gifford, Lucille J.V. Stribling, John L. Alls, Martin L. Meltz, R. Patrick McCreary, Eric A. Holwitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Over 500 isolates of anthrax bacillus from around the world represent one of the most genetically homogeneous microbes. There are three possibilities for this genetic stability: (1) anthrax has an extraordinarily high fidelity repair system, (2) genetic damage to anthrax is usually lethal, and/or (3) a highly demanding and selective process exists in its environment that is necessary for the completion of its life cycle. Using probes made from genes selected by growth of an Escherichia coli expression vector Bacillus anthracis library on hypertrophic high nitrate concentration medium, genes unique to B. anthracis were isolated. High nitration conditions generated stable chromosomal mutants that displayed altered morphology and life-cycle progression. Therefore, life-cycle progression connected to nitration, associated with host inflammatory response, selects for mutants that show life-cycle progression tightly coupled to progression of the inflammatory response to anthrax. Significant variation from this coupled progression leads to failure of anthrax to complete its life-cycle at the death of its host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-118
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthrax
  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Genetic stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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