Tracing Ancestors and Relatives of Escherichia coli B, and the Derivation of B Strains REL606 and BL21(DE3)

Patrick Daegelen, F. William Studier, Richard E. Lenski, Susan Cure, Jihyun F. Kim

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109 Citations (Scopus)


Antecedents of Escherichia coli B have been traced through publications, inferences, and personal communication to a strain from the Institut Pasteur in Paris used by d'Herelle in his studies of bacteriophages as early as 1918 (a strain not in the current collection). This strain appears to have passed from d'Herelle to Bordet in 1920, and from Bordet to at least three other laboratories by 1925. The strain that Gratia received from Bordet was apparently passed to Bronfenbrenner by 1924 and from him to Luria around 1941. Delbrück and Luria published the first paper calling this strain B in 1942. Its choice as the common host for phages T1-T7 by the phage group that developed around Delbrück, Luria, and Hershey in the 1940s led to widespread use of B along with E. coli K-12, chosen about the same time for biochemical and genetic studies by Tatum and Lederberg. Not all currently available strains related to B are descended from the B of Delbrück and Luria; at least three strains with somewhat different characteristics were derived independently by Hershey directly from the Bronfenbrenner strain, and a strain that appears to have passed from Bordet to Wollman is in the current Collection of the Institut Pasteur. The succession of manipulations and strains that led from the B of Delbrück and Luria to REL606 and BL21(DE3) is given, established in part through evidence from their recently determined complete genome sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-643
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Dec 11

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the many colleagues who showed interest, shared memories and insights, and greatly stimulated and assisted with this investigation. Financial support came from the Consortium National de Recherches en Génomique (P.D. and S.C.); the GTL Program of the Office of Biological and Environmental Sciences of the US Department of Energy and internal research funding from Brookhaven National Laboratory (F.W.S.); the US National Science Foundation and DARPA ‘FunBio’ Program (R.E.L.); and the 21C Frontier Microbial Genomics and Applications Center Program of the Korean Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, and the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology Research Initiative Program (J.F.K.).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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