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BMC Evol Biol. 2001;1:12. Epub 2001 Dec 4.

A model combining cell physiology and population genetics to explain Escherichia coli laboratory evolution.

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Sección Biofísica, Facultad de Ciencias Universidad de la República, Iguá 4225, Montevideo 11400, Uruguay.



Laboratory experiments under controlled conditions during thousands of generations are useful tools to assess the processes underlying bacterial evolution. As a result of these experiments, the way in which the traits change in time is obtained. Under these conditions, the bacteria E. coli shows a parallel increase in cell volume and fitness.


To explain this pattern it is required to consider organismic and population contributions. For this purpose we incorporate relevant information concerning bacterial structure, composition and transformations in a minimal modular model. In the short time scale, the model reproduces the physiological responses of the traits to changes in nutrient concentration. The decay of unused catabolic functions, found experimentally, is introduced in the model using simple population genetics. The resulting curves representing the evolution of volume and fitness in time are in good agreement with those obtained experimentally.


This study draws attention on physiology when studying evolution. Moreover, minimal modular models appear to be an adequate strategy to unite these barely related disciplines of biology.

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