The impact of growth rate and environmental factors on mutation rates and spectra in Escherichia coli

Ram P. Maharjan, Thomas Ferenci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic variation in bacterial populations is remarkably sensitive to environmental influences, including simple, nutritional differences. Not only the rate but also the kind of mutational changes is biased by the nutritional state of bacteria. Here we investigate the mutational consequences of a universal variable for free-living bacteria, namely the growth rate. By controlling growth in chemostats, the rate and mix of mutations was investigated for populations of Escherichia coli subject to different specific growth rates. Both aerobic and anaerobic cultures were compared with see if growth rate is a factor in the commonest respiratory conditions for E. coli. We find mutation rates are raised markedly with decreasing growth rate. Base pair substitutions and 1-bp insertions and deletions increase with reduced growth rate, but less so in anaerobic cultures. Insertion sequence movements are particularly sensitive to growth rate, with IS2 being optimal at intermediate growth rates whereas IS1 and IS150 movements are highest at the slowest tested growth rate. A comprehensive comparison of growth rate effects, as well as six other environmental factors, provides the most complete picture yet of the range of mutational signatures in bacterial genetic variation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)626-633
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology Reports
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems/genetics
  • Culture Media/chemistry
  • Cycloserine/pharmacology
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Bacterial/genetics
  • Escherichia coli K12/drug effects
  • Escherichia coli Proteins/genetics
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genes, Bacterial/genetics
  • Genetic Variation
  • Glucose
  • Mutation
  • Mutation Rate
  • Oxygen
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of growth rate and environmental factors on mutation rates and spectra in Escherichia coli'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this