Mutational heterogeneity: a key ingredient of bet-hedging and evolutionary divergence?

Thomas Ferenci, Ram Maharjan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Here, we propose that the heterogeneity of mutational types in populations underpins alternative pathways of evolutionary adaptation. Point mutations, deletions, insertions, transpositions and duplications cause different biological effects and provide distinct adaptive possibilities. Experimental evidence for this notion comes from the mutational origins of adaptive radiations in large, clonal bacterial populations. Independent sympatric lineages with different phenotypes arise from distinct genetic events including gene duplication, different insertion sequence movements and several independent point mutations. The breadth of the mutational spectrum in the ancestral population should be viewed as a form of bet-hedging, reducing the risk of evolutionary dead ends and complementing the phenotypic and epigenetic heterogeneities that improve the survival capabilities of a population. Different mutational events arise from distinct cellular processes and are subject to separate environmental impacts, so the availability of any particular type of mutation may constrain or promote adaptive pathways in populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-130
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note



  • double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs)
  • E. coli
  • evolutionary divergence
  • experimental evolution
  • mutational spectrum
  • population heterogeneity
  • Double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs)
  • Experimental evolution
  • Mutational spectrum
  • Evolutionary divergence
  • Population heterogeneity


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