Rapid evolution of mutation rate and spectrum in response to environmental and population-genetic challenges

Wen Wei, Wei Chin Ho, Megan G. Behringer, Samuel F. Miller, George Bcharah, Michael Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Ecological and demographic factors can significantly shape the evolution of microbial populations both directly and indirectly, as when changes in the effective population size affect the efficiency of natural selection on the mutation rate. However, it remains unclear how rapidly the mutation-rate responds evolutionarily to the entanglement of ecological and population-genetic factors over time. Here, we directly assess the mutation rate and spectrum of Escherichia coli clones isolated from populations evolving in response to 1000 days of different transfer volumes and resource-replenishment intervals. The evolution of mutation rates proceeded rapidly in response to demographic and/or environmental changes, with substantial bidirectional shifts observed as early as 59 generations. These results highlight the remarkable rapidity by which mutation rates are shaped in asexual lineages in response to environmental and population-genetic forces, and are broadly consistent with the drift-barrier hypothesis for the evolution of mutation rates, while also highlighting situations in which mutator genotypes may be promoted by positive selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4752
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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