Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 759–774 | Cite as

Individual-and population-based diversity in restriction-modification systems

  • Ludo Pagie
  • Paulien Hogeweg


Restriction-modification (RM) systems are cognate gene complexes that code for an endonuclease and a methylase. They are often thought to have developed in bacteria as protection against invading genetic material, e.g., phage DNA. The high diversity of RM systems, as observed in nature, is often ascribed to the coevolution of RM systems (which ‘invent’ novel types) and phages. However, the extent to which phages are insensitive to RM systems casts doubts on the effectiveness of RM systems as protection against infection and thereby on the reason for the diversity of RM systems. We present an eco-evolutionary model in order to study the evolution of the diversity of RM systems. The model predicts that in general diversity of RM systems is high. More importantly, the diversity of the RM systems is expressed either at the individual level or at the population level. In the first case all individuals carry RM systems of all sequence specificities, whereas in the second case they carry only one RM system or no RM systems at all. Nevertheless, in the second case the same number of sequence specificities are present in the population.


Methylation Pattern Host Bacterium Phage Infection Bacterium Population Individual Bacterium 
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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ludo Pagie
    • 1
  • Paulien Hogeweg
    • 1
  1. 1.Bioinformatics groupUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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