Why Might Bacterial Pathogens Have Small Genomes?

02 May 2018

Bacteria that cause serious disease often have smaller genomes, and fewer genes, than their nonpathogenic, or less pathogenic relatives. Here, we review evidence for the generality of this association, and summarise the various reasons why the association might hold. We focus on the population genetic processes that might lead to reductive genome evolution, and show how several of these could be connected to pathogenicity. We find some evidence for most of the processes having acted in bacterial pathogens, including several different modes of genome reduction acting in the same lineage. We argue that predictable processes of genome evolution might not reflect any common underlying process.