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J Bacteriol. 2007 Mar;189(6):2350-8. Epub 2006 Dec 8.

Divergence and redundancy of transport and metabolic rate-yield strategies in a single Escherichia coli population.

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  • 1School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences G08, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


The energetic efficiency of nutrient uptake and conversion into biomass is a key factor in the ecological behavior of microorganisms. The constraints shaping the metabolic rate-yield trade-off in bacteria are not well understood. To examine whether metabolic rate-yield settings and physiological strategies evolve toward a particular optimum in a constant environment, we studied multiple Escherichia coli isolates evolving in a glucose-limited chemostat population. A major divergence in transport and metabolic strategies was observed, and the isolates included inefficient rate strategists (polluters or cheaters) and yield strategists (conservationists), as well as various hybrid rate-yield strategists and alternative ecotypes (dropouts). Sugar transport assays, strain comparisons based on metabolomics, and Biolog profiling revealed variance to the point of individuality within an evolving population. Only 68 of 177 metabolites assayed were not affected in 10 clonally related strains. The parallel enrichment of rate and yield strategists and the divergence in metabolic phylogenies indicate that bacteria do not converge on a particular rate-yield balance or unique evolutionary solutions. Redundancies in transport and metabolic pathways are proposed to have laid the framework for the multiplicity of bacterial adaptations.

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