Induced mutations in yeast cell populations adapting to an unforeseen challenge

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The modern evolutionary synthesis assumes that mutations occur at random, independently of the environment in which they confer an advantage. However, there are indications that cells facing challenging conditions can adapt rapidly, utilizing processes beyond selection of pre-existing genetic variation. Here, we show that a strong regulatory challenge can induce mutations in many independent yeast cells, in the absence of general mutagenesis. Whole genome sequencing of cell lineages reveals a repertoire of independent mutations within a single lineage that arose only after the cells were exposed to the challenging environment, while other cells in the same lineage adapted without any mutation in their genomes. Thus, our experiments uncovered multiple alternative routes for heritable adaptation that were all induced in the same lineage during a short time period. Our results demonstrate the existence of adaptation mechanisms beyond random mutation, suggesting a tight connection between physiological and genetic processes.




Moore, L. S., Wei, W., Stolovicki, E., Benbenishty, T., Wilkening, S., Steinmetz, L. M., … David, L. (2014). Induced mutations in yeast cell populations adapting to an unforeseen challenge. PLoS ONE, 9(10).

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