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Genetics. 1994 Aug;137(4):903-17.

Microbial evolution in a simple unstructured environment: genetic differentiation in Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.


Populations of Escherichia coli initiated with a single clone and maintained for long periods in glucose-limited continuous culture, become polymorphic. In one population, three clones were isolated and by means of reconstruction experiments were shown to be maintained in stable polymorphism, although they exhibited substantial differences in maximum specific growth rates and in glucose uptake kinetics. Analysis of these three clones revealed that their stable coexistence could be explained by differential patterns of the secretion and uptake of two alternative metabolites acetate and glycerol. Regulatory (constitutive and null) mutations in acetyl-coenzyme A synthetase accounted for different patterns of acetate secretion and uptake seen. Altered patterns in glycerol uptake are most likely explained by mutations which result in quantitative differences in the induction of the glycerol regulon and/or structural changes in glycerol kinase that reduce allosteric inhibition by effector molecules associated with glycolysis. The evolution of resource partitioning, and consequent polymorphisms which arise may illustrate incipient processes of speciation in asexual organisms.

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