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Mol Biol Evol. 1998 Aug;15(8):931-42.

Multiple duplications of yeast hexose transport genes in response to selection in a glucose-limited environment.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow 83844-3051, USA.


When microbes evolve in a continuous, nutrient-limited environment, natural selection can be predicted to favor genetic changes that give cells greater access to limiting substrate. We analyzed a population of baker's yeast that underwent 450 generations of glucose-limited growth. Relative to the strain used as the inoculum, the predominant cell type at the end of this experiment sustains growth at significantly lower steady-state glucose concentrations and demonstrates markedly enhanced cell yield per mole glucose, significantly enhanced high-affinity glucose transport, and greater relative fitness in pairwise competition. These changes are correlated with increased levels of mRNA hybridizing to probe generated from the hexose transport locus HXT6. Further analysis of the evolved strain reveals the existence of multiple tandem duplications involving two highly similar, high-affinity hexose transport loci, HXT6 and HXT7. Selection appears to have favored changes that result in the formation of more than three chimeric genes derived from the upstream promoter of the HXT7 gene and the coding sequence of HXT6. We propose a genetic mechanism to account for these changes and speculate as to their adaptive significance in the context of gene duplication as a common response of microorganisms to nutrient limitation.

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