The population structure of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A fits the predictions for clonality.

Infection, genetics and evolution : journal of molecular epidemiology and evolutionary genetics in infectious diseases

PubMedID: 12798026

Bart A, Barnabé C, Achtman M, Dankert J, van der Ende A, Tibayrenc M. The population structure of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A fits the predictions for clonality. Infect Genet Evol. 2001;1(2):117-22.
The population structure of Neisseria meningitidis is supposedly epidemic according to. The model predicts that linkage disequilibrium in N. meningitidis populations is only temporary and arises due to the outgrowth of highly successful clonal genotypes from an essentially sexual population. These clones should disappear after a few years because of frequent recombination. In contrast, multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MLEE) data had previously been interpreted as showing that serogroup A meningococci are truly clonal and possess only limited genetic variability (Wang et al., 1992). The two interpretations are contradictory. In order to elucidate the true population structure of serogroup A meningococci, we analyzed data for a representative group of 84 serogroup A isolates obtained by MLEE, random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Analysis of linkage disequilibrium and bootstrap analyses of cluster analysis showed a strongly structured population with highly significant linkage disequilibrium. This was not due to the overrepresentation of certain genotypes, in contrast to the expectations for an epidemic population. The analyses identify two main clades, within each of which linkage disequilibrium was also highly significant, thus, excluding a cryptic speciation model. These observations support a population structure based on clonal evolution, in which clones are much more stable than expected for epidemic clonality. We propose that serogroup A meningococci may possess a different population structure from other serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis.