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Genetics. May 1996; 143(1): 15–26.
PMCID: PMC1207249

Long-Term Experimental Evolution in Escherichia Coli. IV. Targets of Selection and the Specificity of Adaptation


This study investigates the physiological manifestation of adaptive evolutionary change in 12 replicate populations of Escherichia coli that were propagated for 2000 generations in a glucose-limited environment. Representative genotypes from each population were assayed for fitness relative to their common ancestor in the experimental glucose environment and in 11 novel single-nutrient environments. After 2000 generations, the 12 derived genotypes had diverged into at least six distinct phenotypic classes. The nutrients were classified into four groups based upon their uptake physiology. All 12 derived genotypes improved in fitness by similar amounts in the glucose environment, and this pattern of parallel fitness gains was also seen in those novel environments where the limiting nutrient shared uptake mechanisms with glucose. Fitness showed little or no consistent improvement, but much greater genetic variation, in novel environments where the limiting nutrient differed from glucose in its uptake mechanisms. This pattern of fitness variation in the novel nutrient environments suggests that the independently derived genotypes adapted to the glucose environment by similar, but not identical, changes in the physiological mechanisms for moving glucose across both the inner and outer membranes.

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Selected References

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