DNA repair and the evolution of transformation in Bacillus subtilis. III. Sex with damaged DNA.
M A Hoelzer, R E Michod


Natural genetic transformation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis provides an experimental system for studying the evolutionary function of sexual recombination. The repair hypothesis proposes that during transformation the exogenous DNA taken up by cells is used as template for recombinational repair of damages in the recipient cell's genome. Earlier results demonstrated that the population density of transformed cells (i.e., sexual cells) increases, relative to nontransformed cells (primarily asexual cells), with increasing dosage of ultraviolet irradiation, provided that the cells are transformed with undamaged homologous DNA after they have become damaged. In nature, however, donor DNA for transformation is likely to come from cells that are as damaged as the recipient cells. In order to better simulate the effects of transformation in natural populations we conducted similar experiments as those just described using damaged donor DNA. We document in this report that transformants continue to increase in relative density even if they are transformed with damaged donor DNA. These results suggest that sites of transformation are often damaged sites in the recipient cell's genome.