Dissection of the mutation accumulation process during bacterial range expansions

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Background: Recent experimental work has shown that the evolutionary dynamics of bacteria expanding across space can differ dramatically from what we expect under well-mixed conditions. During spatial expansion, deleterious mutations can accumulate due to inefficient selection on the expansion front, potentially interfering with and modifying adaptive evolutionary processes. Results: We used whole genome sequencing to follow the genomic evolution of 10 mutator Escherichia coli lines during 39 days (~ 1650 generations) of a spatial expansion, which allowed us to gain a temporal perspective on the interaction of adaptive and non-Adaptive evolutionary processes during range expansions. We used elastic net regression to infer the positive or negative effects of mutations on colony growth. The colony size, measured after three day of growth, decreased at the end of the experiment in all 10 lines, and mutations accumulated at a nearly constant rate over the whole experiment. We find evidence that beneficial mutations accumulate primarily at an early stage of the experiment, leading to a non-linear change of colony size over time. Indeed, the rate of colony size expansion remains almost constant at the beginning of the experiment and then decreases after ~ 12 days of evolution. We also find that beneficial mutations are enriched in genes encoding transport proteins, and genes coding for the membrane structure, whereas deleterious mutations show no enrichment for any biological process. Conclusions: Our experiment shows that beneficial mutations target specific biological functions mostly involved in inter or extra membrane processes, whereas deleterious mutations are randomly distributed over the whole genome. It thus appears that the interaction between genetic drift and the availability or depletion of beneficial mutations determines the change in fitness of bacterial populations during range expansion.




Bosshard, L., Peischl, S., Ackermann, M., & Excoffier, L. (2020). Dissection of the mutation accumulation process during bacterial range expansions. BMC Genomics, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-020-6676-z

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