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Genetics. 2000 Dec;156(4):1493-501.

Experimental analysis of molecular events during mutational periodic selections in bacterial evolution.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.


A fundamental feature of bacterial evolution is a succession of adaptive mutational sweeps when fitter mutants take over a population. To understand the processes involved in mutational successions, Escherichia coli continuous cultures were analyzed for changes at two loci where mutations provide strong transport advantages to fitness under steady-state glucose limitation. Three separate sweeps, observed as classic periodic selection events causing a change in the frequency of neutral mutations (in fhuA causing phage T5 resistance), were identified with changes at particular loci. Two of the sweeps were associated with a reduction in the frequency of neutral mutations and the concurrent appearance of at least 13 alleles at the mgl or mlc loci, respectively. These mgl and mlc polymorphisms were of many mutational types, so were not the result of a mutator or directed mutation event. The third sweep observed was altogether distinct and involved hitchhiking between T5 resistance and advantageous mgl mutations. Moreover, the hitchhiking event coincided with an increase in mutation rates, due to the transient appearance of a strong mutator in the population. The spectrum of mgl mutations among mutator isolates was distinct and due to mutS. The mutator-associated periodic selection also resulted in mgl and fhuA polymorphism in the sweeping population. These examples of periodic selections maintained significant genotypic diversity even in a rapidly evolving culture, with no individual "winner clone" or genotype purging the population.

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