Navigation Links
Bacteria's key innovation helps understand evolution

Several years ago researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) reported discovering a novel, evolutionary trait in a long-studied population of Escherichia coli, a rod-shaped bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine of mammals. The E. coli added a helping of citrate to its traditional diet of glucose, even though other E. coli can't consume citrate in the presence of oxygen.

These same biologists have now analyzed this new trait's genetic origins and found that in multiple cases, the evolving E. coli population needed more than one mutational step before the key innovation took hold. Complex traits, like using a new food source, are thought to be difficult and arise rarely, making the research of broad interest to both evolutionary biologists and public health scientists.

The findings, reported in this week's journal Nature, document the step-by-step process by which organisms evolve new functions. The study also highlights the importance of evolutionary changes that alter the physical arrangement of genes, leading to new patterns of gene regulation.

E. coli normally can't digest citrate when oxygen is present because they don't express the right protein to absorb citrate molecules. Citrate is a salt or class of citric acid commonly found in fruit such as lemons. So how did this mutation occur?

To find the answer, postdoctoral researcher Zachary Blount and MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Richard Lenski analyzed dozens of complete genome sequences from bacteria that had evolved this new trait and had been sampled and stored at different time points in the history of the lineage.

The National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology partly funded the research, as did the NSF-supported BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

The team used samples from Lenski's long-term E. coli experiment that started in February 1988 and has been ongoing for more than 24 years. The experiment allows Lenski and his students and colleagues to study more than 56,000 generations of bacterial evolution. In terms of generations, it is the longest running evolution experiment in history.

Twelve populations of E. coli live in an incubator in Lenski's laboratory producing about seven new generations every 24 hours. Each day, scientists take one percent of each population and transfer it into a new food source, a flask containing fresh glucose, which the bacteria readily eat, and citrate, which one population discovered how to eat after more than 30,000 generations. The researchers also take samples every 500 generations, and freeze them for later study.

Because they freeze the samples, when something new emerges the scientists can go back to earlier generations to look for the steps that happened along the way, which is what occurred in this case.

The researchers found that at least three mutations were required for the bacteria to effectively use citrate when oxygen is present. One or more mutations were necessary to set the physiological stage for the two later events. Then a critical gene duplication occurred that effectively re-wired the expression of a previously silent gene.

"These bacteria have evolved to consume a food resource--citrate--that no wild E. coli uses. Three mutations are required for this to happen, and they must occur in a specific order," said George Gilchrist, NSF program manager for the BEACON Science and Technology Center. "This study shows that the first mutation is required to set the stage for the next two, but surprisingly, this turns out to occur repeatedly and independently in different populations. What this suggests is that complex traits, at least in the microbial world, can evolve quickly and repeatedly."


Contact: Bobbie Mixon
National Science Foundation

Related biology news :

1. NSF research alliances begin new efforts to accelerate innovation
2. New video series highlights the people who fuel Americas innovation pipeline
3. Security Technology Executive, SIA and ISC East announce Security Innovation Awards Collaboration
4. NSF Leadership in Discovery and Innovation sparks White House US Ignite Initiative
5. ESMO 2012 Congress: A path for medical oncology innovations
6. NineSigma Launches NineSights, the Worlds First Open Innovation Social Media Destination for Innovation Seekers and Solution Providers
7. MADRID-MIT M+Vision Consortium hosts Biomedical Innovation Conference 2012
8. Science, Innovation, and Partnerships for Sustainability -- Symposium May 16-18
9. Inventor honored for bridging innovation and humanitarianism to help millions globally
10. Science means innovation
11. Joint UT study: Reading food labels helps shoppers stay thinner
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Bacteria's key innovation helps understand evolution
(Date:4/28/2016)... , April 28, 2016 First quarter ... (139.9), up 966% compared with the first quarter of 2015 ... totaled SEK 589.1 M (loss: 18.8) and the operating margin was ... (loss: 0.32) Cash flow from operations was SEK 249.9 ... 2016 revenue guidance is unchanged, SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... April 27, 2016 Research ... Multi-modal Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report to their offering.  ... The analysts forecast the global multimodal ... 15.49% during the period 2016-2020.  Multimodal ... sectors such as the healthcare, BFSI, transportation, automotive, ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... CHICAGO , April 15, 2016  A ... companies make more accurate underwriting decisions in a ... offering timely, competitively priced and high-value life insurance ... health screenings. With Force Diagnostics, rapid ... and lifestyle data readings (blood pressure, weight, pulse, ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... San Diego, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... mClinical solutions for clinical trials, announced today the Clinical Reach Virtual Patient ... and their care circle with the physician and clinical trial team. , Using the ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... TOKYO , June 24, 2016  Regular discussions on ... to take place between the two entities said Poloz. ... in Ottawa , he pointed to the ... and the federal government. ... Poloz said, "Both institutions have common economic goals, why not ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... is pleased to announce the launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target ... over 35 years, is proud to add Target to its list of well-respected ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Lawrence, MA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 ... ... the Peel Plate® YM (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research ... test platform of microbial tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President ...
Breaking Biology Technology: