Evolutionary genomics of ecological specialization

Shaobin Zhong, Arkady Khodursky, Daniel E. Dykhuizen, Antony M. Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


We used a combination of genomic techniques to monitor chromosomal evolution across hundreds of generations as Escherichia coli adapted to growth-limiting concentrations of either lactulose, methyl-galactoside, or a 72:28 mixture of the two. DNA microarrays identified 8 unique duplications and 16 unique deletions among 42 evolvants from 23 chemostat experiments. Each mutation was confirmed by sequencing PCR-amplified flanking genomic DNA and, except for one deletion, an insertion sequence was found at the break point. vPCR of insertion sequences identified these same mutations and 16 additional insertions (all confirmed by sequencing). The pattern of genomic evolution is highly reproducible. Statistical analyses show that duplications at lac and mutations in mgl are adaptations specific to lactulose and to methyl-galactoside, respectively. Adaptation to mixed sugars is characterized by similar mutations, but lac duplications and mgl mutations usually arise in different backgrounds, producing ecological specialists for each sugar. This suggests that an antagonistic pleiotropic tradeoff between duplications at lac and mutations in mgl retards the evolution of generalists. Other mutations that repeatedly appear in replicate experiments are adaptations to the chemostat environment and are not specific to one or the other sugar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11719-11724
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 10 2004


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