Advertisement

The Making of a Trait

Populations of organisms acquire beneficial traits repeatedly and rapidly through co-evolution with other species and through gene interaction.

By | January 26, 2012

Virus phage λBRIAN D. WADE AND ALICIA PASTOR, CENTER FOR ADVANCED MICROSCOPY, MSU

How many genes does it take to get to the center of a new trait? A pair of papers published today (January 26) in Science looks at just that, probing the molecular basis of how organisms evolve new physical characteristics. In the first study, a virus finds a novel way to infect E. coli under the pressure of co-evolution. In the second study, E. coli adapts to a hot environment using two different survival strategies.

Together, the papers demonstrate that the evolution of beneficial new traits—also called key innovations—is repeatable, rapid, and often spurred by co-evolution and the interaction of genes.

“It’s always been one of the big problems of evolution—how do you get beyond fine tuning of what you’re already doing and come up with something radically new, a fundamentally new trait?” said John Thompson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved in either study. “Both studies tell us there is ongoing and rapid appearance of beneficial mutations.” Similar evidence has appeared in phenotypic studies, he noted, “but to see it at the molecular level in well-controlled experiments like this is very encouraging and interesting… They’re both really first class studies.”

Bacteriophage ?, a tiny DNA virus, infects E. coli through a single receptor, LamB, on the bacterium’s outer membrane. Evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski, along with PhD student Justin Meyer and colleagues at Michigan State University, designed an experiment to see if the virus could evolve to infect the host via a different pathway. The team grew 96 populations of E. coli and ? together under conditions that stop the E. coli from expressing LamB. The team waited to see whether the virus would adapt to infect the bacteria through an alternate receptor in the absence of its sole receptor.

Justin Meyer and co-author Devin Dobias examine E. coli growth. G.L. Kohuth
Justin Meyer and co-author Devin Dobias examine e coli growth
G.L. KOHUTH

And it did. About 25 percent of the populations evolved the ability to enter the E. coli through a second receptor, OmpF, within about 12 days. The adapted viruses remained capable of binding LamB, but had gained this new function. By sequencing the viral DNA, the team identified four mutations in the J protein, a specialized protein on the virus’s tail that normally binds LamB, that were required for the protein to bind the OmpF receptor.

But not all the ? populations evolved. The team looked at the E. coli’s DNA to determine why, and found that the bacteria were co-evolving to impede the virus. In those cases, the E. coli had a mutated transmembrane channel in its inner membrane, so the virus’s DNA could no longer penetrate the cell, regardless of which receptor it bound. In this case, there was no benefit for the viruses that could use OmpF. So while these populations gained some of the J protein mutations, which appeared to improve attachment to LamB, they never acquired the fourth and final mutation necessary for OmpF binding because the selection pressure to do so was lost.

“There’s this really delicate co-evolutionary dance,” said Meyer. “The bacteria take one step, which creates the environment, so then the phage takes several steps, and if it gets to the fourth one, then it can enter through a new receptor… But if the bacteria take a second step before the phage gets there, then they shut down the process and we don’t have that interesting outcome.”

“Co-evolution can predispose this shift to happen in the phage, but it can also constrain it,” said Thompson, who wrote an accompanying perspective in Science. “[Co-evolution] is one of the great engines of biodiversity. It’s an adaption generator.”

E. Coli Brian D. Wade and Alicia Pastor, Center for Advanced Microscopy, MSU
E. Coli
BRIAN D. WADE AND ALICIA PASTOR, CENTER FOR ADVANCED MICROSCOPY, MSU

In the second paper, Brandon Gaut of the University of California, Irvine, and Olivier Tenaillon of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris describe a year-long experiment in which they grew 115 populations of E. coli at high temperatures (42.2°C). “Temperature is a complex challenge for an organism to respond to because it can affect so many parts of the cellular process,” said Gaut.

Of the populations that survived, the team identified 1,331 mutations affecting more than 600 sites in the bacterial DNA. Few of the mutations were shared from population to population, suggesting little overlap between their evolutionary paths. But when the scientists stepped back and analyzed the mutations at the level of functional gene groups, they were surprised to find a strong pattern: E. coli populations adapted to the heat by mutating one of two pathways—either the RNA polymerase complex or the termination factor rho, but rarely both. Additionally, each of these pathways had a set of associated genes that were also mutated in parallel, suggesting that epistasis, or the interaction of associated genes, plays a role in adaptive evolution.

“You tend to have RNA polymerase and its associated genes as one set of solutions to this adaptive problem, or you get mutations in rho and another set of associated genes,” said Gaut. Unfortunately, he added, the team does not yet know how either solution physically helped the cells to survive the high temperature, or what role the associated genes play. They plan to begin teasing out those answers by comparing the phenotypes of E. coli strains with some of the mutations that were recorded.

O. Tenaillon, et al., “The molecular diversity of adaptive convergence,” Science, 335:457-61, 2012.

J.R. Meyer, et al., “Repeatability and contingency in the evolution of a key innovation in phage lambda,” Science, 335:428-32, 2012.

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Comments

Avatar of: Dov

Dov

Posts: 1457

January 27, 2012

Enough with the AAAS-sponsored culture-genetics ignorance!
It's culture that modifies genes, NOT vice versa!!!

The DNA and RNA genomes are ORGANISMS evolved by life’s primal ORGANISMS, the RNAs, and so are all cells… 
 
(Extend evolution way down to genes, life’s base ORGANISMS. Culture modifies genetics, not vice versa...)
 
Pavlov’s Smile: RNAs Are Earth’s Primal Organisms
Culture>genes>addiction (2 July 2009)
http://universe-life.com/2011/...
 
Why Pavlov smiled in 2008?
 
Pavlov demonstrated effecting placebo phenomena in multi celled organisms by manipulation of their drives-reactions. Now placebo and imagination phenomena are demonstrated also in Earth’s smallest, base organisms, in the genes and genomes of multi-celled organisms, in our primal 1st stratum and 2nd stratum base organisms.
A very good reason to smile.
Now an interesting chain is exposed to our view, the Genes-Virtual Reality Chain, a most intriguing cultural evolution chain extending from the genesis of our genes to nowadays, throughout life, a virtual reality existence, and by virtual reality phenomena, exploitations and manipulations.
 
Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)http://universe-life.com
 
PSW1:
From  “Life Genesis From Aromaticity/H-Bondingâ€쳌
http://universe-life.com/2011/...
Natural selection is E (energy) temporarily constrained in an m (mass) format.
Natural selection is a universal ubiquitous trait of ALL mass spin formats, inanimate and animate.
Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection,  self-replication.
 
PS2:
It’s culture that modifies genes, NOT vice versa:
If I told you once, I told you a million times: It’s The Horses Pulling, Not The Wagon Pushing
http://universe-life.com/2011/...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 27, 2012

Enough with the AAAS-sponsored culture-genetics ignorance!
It's culture that modifies genes, NOT vice versa!!!

The DNA and RNA genomes are ORGANISMS evolved by life’s primal ORGANISMS, the RNAs, and so are all cells… 
 
(Extend evolution way down to genes, life’s base ORGANISMS. Culture modifies genetics, not vice versa...)
 
Pavlov’s Smile: RNAs Are Earth’s Primal Organisms
Culture>genes>addiction (2 July 2009)
http://universe-life.com/2011/...
 
Why Pavlov smiled in 2008?
 
Pavlov demonstrated effecting placebo phenomena in multi celled organisms by manipulation of their drives-reactions. Now placebo and imagination phenomena are demonstrated also in Earth’s smallest, base organisms, in the genes and genomes of multi-celled organisms, in our primal 1st stratum and 2nd stratum base organisms.
A very good reason to smile.
Now an interesting chain is exposed to our view, the Genes-Virtual Reality Chain, a most intriguing cultural evolution chain extending from the genesis of our genes to nowadays, throughout life, a virtual reality existence, and by virtual reality phenomena, exploitations and manipulations.
 
Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)http://universe-life.com
 
PSW1:
From  “Life Genesis From Aromaticity/H-Bondingâ€쳌
http://universe-life.com/2011/...
Natural selection is E (energy) temporarily constrained in an m (mass) format.
Natural selection is a universal ubiquitous trait of ALL mass spin formats, inanimate and animate.
Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection,  self-replication.
 
PS2:
It’s culture that modifies genes, NOT vice versa:
If I told you once, I told you a million times: It’s The Horses Pulling, Not The Wagon Pushing
http://universe-life.com/2011/...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 27, 2012

Enough with the AAAS-sponsored culture-genetics ignorance!
It's culture that modifies genes, NOT vice versa!!!

The DNA and RNA genomes are ORGANISMS evolved by life’s primal ORGANISMS, the RNAs, and so are all cells… 
 
(Extend evolution way down to genes, life’s base ORGANISMS. Culture modifies genetics, not vice versa...)
 
Pavlov’s Smile: RNAs Are Earth’s Primal Organisms
Culture>genes>addiction (2 July 2009)
http://universe-life.com/2011/...
 
Why Pavlov smiled in 2008?
 
Pavlov demonstrated effecting placebo phenomena in multi celled organisms by manipulation of their drives-reactions. Now placebo and imagination phenomena are demonstrated also in Earth’s smallest, base organisms, in the genes and genomes of multi-celled organisms, in our primal 1st stratum and 2nd stratum base organisms.
A very good reason to smile.
Now an interesting chain is exposed to our view, the Genes-Virtual Reality Chain, a most intriguing cultural evolution chain extending from the genesis of our genes to nowadays, throughout life, a virtual reality existence, and by virtual reality phenomena, exploitations and manipulations.
 
Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)http://universe-life.com
 
PSW1:
From  “Life Genesis From Aromaticity/H-Bondingâ€쳌
http://universe-life.com/2011/...
Natural selection is E (energy) temporarily constrained in an m (mass) format.
Natural selection is a universal ubiquitous trait of ALL mass spin formats, inanimate and animate.
Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection,  self-replication.
 
PS2:
It’s culture that modifies genes, NOT vice versa:
If I told you once, I told you a million times: It’s The Horses Pulling, Not The Wagon Pushing
http://universe-life.com/2011/...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 28, 2012

It seems, under stress, required DNA mutation happens,for better survival and passed them to offsprings.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 28, 2012

This process has long been known and referred to as adaptive mutation, and is essentially a strategically intelligent response to an environmental situation where such adaptation is called for.  These new strategies are tested, and when found to work, they become revised genetic operational/optional instructions, and are heritable.  Bacteria are, in short, strategically intelligent, as are in fact all biological systems and the functions by which they construct, operate, and adapt their structural composition.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 28, 2012

It seems, under stress, required DNA mutation happens,for better survival and passed them to offsprings.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 28, 2012

This process has long been known and referred to as adaptive mutation, and is essentially a strategically intelligent response to an environmental situation where such adaptation is called for.  These new strategies are tested, and when found to work, they become revised genetic operational/optional instructions, and are heritable.  Bacteria are, in short, strategically intelligent, as are in fact all biological systems and the functions by which they construct, operate, and adapt their structural composition.

Avatar of: Namby Ravi Reddiar

Namby Ravi Reddiar

Posts: 1457

January 28, 2012

It seems, under stress, required DNA mutation happens,for better survival and passed them to offsprings.

Avatar of: Roy Niles

Roy Niles

Posts: 32

January 28, 2012

This process has long been known and referred to as adaptive mutation, and is essentially a strategically intelligent response to an environmental situation where such adaptation is called for.  These new strategies are tested, and when found to work, they become revised genetic operational/optional instructions, and are heritable.  Bacteria are, in short, strategically intelligent, as are in fact all biological systems and the functions by which they construct, operate, and adapt their structural composition.

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Hamamatsu
Hamamatsu
Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist
Life Technologies