Evolutionary innovation using EDGE, a system for localized elevated mutagenesis

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Mutations arising across the whole genome can hinder the emergence of evolutionary innovation required for adaptation because many mutations are deleterious. This trade-off is overcome by elevated mutagenesis to localized loci. Examples include phase variation and diversity-generating retroelements. However, these mechanisms are rare in nature; and all have narrow mutational spectra limiting evolutionary innovation. Here, we engineer a platform of Experimental Designed Genic Evolution (EDGE) to study the potential for evolutionary novelty at a single locus. Experimental evolution with EDGE shows that bacterial resistance to a novel antibiotic readily evolves, provided that elevated mutagenesis is focused on a relevant gene. A model is proposed to account for the cost and benefit of such single loci to adaptation in a changing environment and explains their high mutation rates, limited innovation, and the rarity of localized mutagenesis in nature. Overall, our results suggest that localized mutation systems can facilitate continuing adaptive evolution without necessarily restricting the spectrum of mutations. EDGE has utility in dissecting the complex process of adaptation with its localized, efficient evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0232330
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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