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Methods to Study Fitness and Compensatory Adaptation in Plasmid-Carrying Bacteria

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Abstract

Mobile genetic elements such as plasmids mediate horizontal gene transfer in prokaryotes, promoting bacterial adaptation and evolution. Despite the potential advantages conferred by these genetic elements, plasmids can also produce a fitness cost when they arrive to a new host. This initial burden is one of the main limits to the spread of plasmids in bacterial populations. However, plasmid costs can be ameliorated over time through compensatory mutations in the plasmid or the chromosome (compensatory adaptation). Understanding the origin of the cost produced by plasmids and the potential for compensatory adaptation is crucial to predict the spread and evolution of plasmid-mediated traits, such as antibiotic resistance. Here, we describe a simple protocol designed to analyze the fitness effects of a plasmid in a new host bacterium. We also provide a method to examine the potential for compensatory adaptation, using experimental evolution, and to elucidate if compensation originates in the plasmid, the bacterium, or both.

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DelaFuente, J., Rodriguez-Beltran, J., & San Millan, A. (2020). Methods to Study Fitness and Compensatory Adaptation in Plasmid-Carrying Bacteria. In Methods in Molecular Biology (Vol. 2075, pp. 371–382). Humana Press Inc. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-9877-7_26

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