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Genetics. 1991 Aug;128(4):695-701.

Adaptive reversion of a frameshift mutation in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Cancer Biology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Mutation rates are generally thought not to be influenced by selective forces. This doctrine rests on the results of certain classical studies of the mutations that make bacteria resistant to phages and antibiotics. We have studied a strain of Escherichia coli which constitutively expresses a lacI-lacZ fusion containing a frameshift mutation that renders it Lac-. Reversion to Lac+ is a rare event during exponential growth but occurs in stationary cultures when lactose is the only source of energy. No revertants accumulate in the absence of lactose, or in the presence of lactose if there is another, unfulfilled requirement for growth. The mechanism for such mutation in stationary phase is not known, but it requires some function of RecA which is apparently not required for mutation during exponential growth.

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