Fitness effects of amino acid replacements in the beta-galactosidase of Escherichia coli.

A. M. Dean, D. E. Dykhuizen, D. L. Hartl

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Two genetic procedures were used to obtain amino acid replacements in the lacZ-encoded beta-galactosidase in Escherichia coli. Amino acid replacements could be obtained without regard to their effects on lactase activity by selecting spontaneous mutations that relieved the strong polarity of six nonsense mutations. When streaked on MacConkey-lactose indicator plates, approximately 75% of these mutants gave strong red lactose-fermenting colonies, and 25% gave white nonfermenting colonies. Mutants from 11 other nonsense codons were isolated directly using MacConkey-lactose indicator plates, on which positive color indication requires only 0.5% of the wildtype lactase activity. Among the total of 17 codons, 25 variant beta-galactosidases were identified using electrophoresis and thermal denaturation studies. The fitness effects of these variant beta-galactosidases were determined using competition experiments conducted with lactose as the sole nutrient limiting the growth rate in chemostat cultures. Three of the replacements were deleterious, one was selectively advantageous, and the selective effects of the remaining 21 were undetectable under conditions in which the smallest detectable selection coefficient was approximately 0.4%/generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-485
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1988


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