Polymorphism of the glucosyltransferase gene (ycjM) in Escherichia coli and its use for tracking human fecal pollution in water

Daiyong Deng, Ning Zhang, Dong Xu, Mary Reed, Fengjing Liu, Guolu Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study examined polymorphism of the glucosyltransferase gene (ycjM) in fecal Escherichia coli isolates and evaluated the use of the sequence polymorphism for measuring human fecal pollution in water. Significant nucleotide variations were observed through comparative analysis of the ycjM sequences of 70 E. coli strains isolated from the feces of humans, domestic livestock, and wild animals. Three distinct types of ycjM sequences were found: universal- ycjM, human/chicken- ycjM, and human- ycjM. Using the human- ycjM sequences, both a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Hycj-PCR and a quantitative PCR, Hycj-qPCR, were developed. As shown by the Hycj-PCR amplification, the human- ycjM marker appeared to be highly associated with the E. coli strains isolated from human feces, based on the analysis of 370 E. coli strains isolated from humans and seven other animal species. Similarly, the human- ycjM marker was highly linked with human feces, as demonstrated by the Hycj-PCR assay, when using 337 fecal DNA samples from 16 host animal sources, including both domestic and wild animals. Overall, the specificity and sensitivity of the human- ycjM marker for differentiating between the feces of humans and those of nonhuman groups were 99.7% and 100%, respectively; the prevalence of the marker appeared to be greater than 50% in the human-feces-associated E. coli population. In addition, our study showed that the quantification of human E. coli by the Hycj-qPCR was linearly correlated with the anthropogenic activity within a watershed. Our study suggests that this novel human- ycjM marker and the resulting PCR-based methods developed should be useful for measuring human-associated E. coli and human fecal pollution in water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-267
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Dec 15 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


  • Human fecal indicator
  • Land use
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Polymerase chain reaction


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