Send to

Choose Destination
Res Microbiol. 2004 Jun;155(5):352-9.

Adaptive mutation and amplification in Escherichia coli: two pathways of genome adaptation under stress.

Author information

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Rm S809, Mail Stop 225, Houston, TX 77030-3411, USA.


The neo-Darwinists suggested that evolution is constant and gradual, and thus that genetic changes that drive evolution should be too. However, more recent understanding of phenomena called adaptive mutation in microbes indicates that mutation rates can be elevated in response to stress, producing beneficial and other mutations. We review evidence that, in Escherichia coli, two separate mechanisms of stress-induced genetic change occur that revert a lac frameshift allele allowing growth on lactose medium. First, compensatory frameshift ("point") mutations occur by a mechanism that includes DNA double-strand breaks and (we have suggested) their error-prone repair. Point mutation requires induction of the RpoS-dependent general stress response, and the SOS DNA damage response leading to upregulation of the error-prone DNA polymerase DinB (Pol IV), and occurs during a transient limitation of post-replicative mismatch repair activity. A second mechanism, adaptive amplification, entails amplification of the leaky lac allele to 20-50 tandem repeats. These provide sufficient beta-galactosidase activity for growth, thereby apparently deflecting cells from the point mutation pathway. Unlike point mutation, amplification neither occurs in hypermutating cells nor requires SOS or DinB, but like point mutation, amplification requires the RpoS-dependent stress response. Similar processes are being found in other bacterial systems and yeast. Stress-induced genetic changes may underlie much of microbial evolution, pathogenesis and antibiotic resistance, and also cancer formation, progression and drug resistance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center