A case of adaptation through a mutation in a tandem duplication during experimental evolution in Escherichia coli

Ram P. Maharjan, Joël Gaffé, Jessica Plucain, Martin Schliep, Lei Wang, Lu Feng, Olivier Tenaillon, Thomas Ferenci, Dominique Schneider*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: DNA duplications constitute important precursors for genome variation. Here we analyzed an unequal duplication harboring a beneficial mutation that may provide alternative evolutionary outcomes.

Results: We characterized this evolutionary event during experimental evolution for only 100 generations of an Escherichia coli strain under glucose limitation within chemostats. By combining Insertion Sequence based Restriction Length Polymorphism experiments, pulsed field gel electrophoresis and two independent genome re-sequencing experiments, we identified an evolved lineage carrying a 180 kb duplication of the 46' region of the E. coli chromosome. This evolved duplication revealed a heterozygous state, with one copy harboring a 2668 bp deletion that included part of the ogrK gene and both the yegR and yegS genes. By genetically manipulating ancestral and evolved strains, we showed that the single yegS inactivation was sufficient to confer a frequency dependent fitness increase under the chemostat selective conditions in both the ancestor and evolved genetic contexts, implying that the duplication itself was not a direct fitness contributor. Nonetheless, the heterozygous duplicated state was relatively stable in the conditions prevailing during evolution in chemostats, in striking contrast to non selective conditions in which the duplication resolved at high frequency into either its ancestral or deleted copy.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the duplication state may constitute a second order selection process providing higher evolutionary potential. Moreover, its heterozygous nature may provide differential evolutionary opportunities in alternating environments. Our results also highlighted how careful analyses of whole genome data are needed to identify such complex rearrangements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number441
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Genomics
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2013. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Chemostats
  • Duplication
  • Escherichia coli
  • Experimental evolution
  • Frequency-dependent selection
  • Heterozygous duplication
  • Indirect selection
  • Insertion sequence elements


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