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J Bacteriol. 1999 Sep;181(18):5800-7.

Mutations enhancing amino acid catabolism confer a growth advantage in stationary phase.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Starved cultures of Escherichia coli undergo successive rounds of population takeovers by mutants of increasing fitness. These mutants express the growth advantage in stationary phase (GASP) phenotype. Previous work identified the rpoS819 allele as a GASP mutation allowing cells to take over stationary-phase cultures after growth in rich media (M. M. Zambrano, D. A. Siegele, M. A. Almirón, A. Tormo, and R. Kolter, Science 259:1757-1760, 1993). Here we have identified three new GASP loci from an aged rpoS819 strain: sgaA, sgaB, and sgaC. Each locus is capable of conferring GASP on the rpoS819 parent, and they can provide successively higher fitnesses for the bacteria in the starved cultures. All four GASP mutations isolated thus far allow for faster growth on both individual and mixtures of amino acids. Each mutation confers a growth advantage on a different subset of amino acids, and these mutations act in concert to increase the overall catabolic capacity of the cell. We present a model whereby this enhanced ability to catabolize amino acids is responsible for the fitness gain during carbon starvation, as it may allow GASP mutants to outcompete the parental cells when growing on the amino acids released by dying cells.

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