Change accelerates stalled evolution

Change accelerates stalled evolution


Evolution can get stuck. When no mutations are available that can improve the fitness of an organism, evolution cannot proceed. However, using environmental fluctuations that are ubiquitous in nature, evolution can proceed. In the preprint that we posted earlier on the bioRxiv and which has recently been published in PNAS we describe how a transcription factor and its binding site, constraint in the different constant environments, can evolve in fluctuating environments.

Stalled evolution

Concept of fitness landscape. From de Visser & Krug,Nature Reviews Genetics 15, 480–490 (2014) Concept of fitness landscape. From de Visser & Krug,Nature Reviews Genetics 15, 480–490 (2014)

The accessibility of phenotypes in different environments depends on the wiring of the genotype-phenotype map and the translation of this map into fitness. When sub-optimal genotypes are surrounded by valleys in the adaptive landscape, neighboring genotypes are inaccessible and evolution is unable to proceed by single mutational step-by-step positive Darwinian evolution (Figure 1).

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Change accelerates stalled evolution

A new manuscript will come out the end of this week.

Researchers of FOM Institute AMOLF and Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire de Physique in Grenoble (France) have shown that the evolution of bacteria can be accelerated when their environment fluctuates in time. The research gives new insights in the evolutionary limitations of organisms and the positive effect of changing conditions, and leads to new suggestions for the evolutionary optimization of biotechnological processes. The work also reveals a flip-side, because evolutionary acceleration can also be detrimental in some cases. For example, the alternating use of antibiotics could increase the risk that bacteria more rapidly evolve resistance against antibiotics. The results will be published November 13 in PNAS.

See link below for press release FOM

New MSc thesis student in the lab

Two weeks ago Valentijn Jansen, student Molecular Life Sciences, has joined our lab to do his MSc thesis. After some brainstorming and reading up, it’s time for both of us to get started in the lab. Looking forward!

Would you also like to do your MSc thesis on the evolution of interactions between bacteria derived from urinary tract infections? Just drop me a line!