Adaptive Divergence in Experimental Populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens. I. Genetic and Phenotypic Bases of Wrinkly Spreader Fitness
Andrew J. Spiers, Sophie G. Kahn, John Bohannon, Michael Travisano, Paul B. Rainey

Abstract

A central feature of all adaptive radiations is morphological divergence, but the phenotypic innovations that are responsible are rarely known. When selected in a spatially structured environment, populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens rapidly diverge. Among the divergent morphs is a mutant type termed “wrinkly spreader” (WS) that colonizes a new niche through the formation of self-supporting biofilms. Loci contributing to the primary phenotypic innovation were sought by screening a WS transposon library for niche-defective (WS-) mutants. Detailed analysis of one group of mutants revealed an operon of 10 genes encoding enzymes necessary to produce a cellulose-like polymer (CLP). WS genotypes overproduce CLP and overproduction of the polymer is necessary for the distinctive morphology of WS colonies; it is also required for biofilm formation and to maximize fitness in spatially structured microcosms, but overproduction of CLP alone is not sufficient to cause WS. A working model predicts that modification of cell cycle control of CLP production is an important determinant of the phenotypic innovation. Analysis of >30 kb of DNA encoding traits required for expression of the WS phenotype, including a regulatory locus, has not revealed the mutational causes, indicating a complex genotype-phenotype map.

  • Received October 3, 2001.
  • Accepted January 24, 2002.
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