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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Mechanisms of mutation in nondividing cells. Insights from the study of adaptive mutation in Escherichia coli.

When populations of cells are subjected to nonlethal selection, mutations arise in the absence of cell division, a phenomenon that has been called "adaptive mutation." In a strain of Escherichia coli that cannot metabolize lactose (Lac-) but that reverts to lactose utilization (Lac+) when lactose is its sole energy and carbon source, the mutational process consists of two components. (1) A highly efficient, recombination-dependent mechanism giving rise to mutations on the F' episome that carries the Lac- allele; and (2) a less efficient, unknown mechanism giving rise to mutations elsewhere in the genome. Both selected and nonselected mutations arise in the Lac- population, but nonselected mutations are enriched in Lac+ mutants, suggesting that some Lac+ cells have passed though a transient period of increased mutation. These results have several evolutionary implications. (1) DNA synthesis initiated by recombination could be an important source of spontaneous mutation, particularly in cells that are not undergoing genomic replication. (2) The highly active mutational mechanism on the episome could be important in the horizontal transfer of variant alleles among species that carry and exchange conjugal plasmids. (3) A sub-population of cells in a state of transient mutation could be a source of multiple variant alleles and could provide a mechanism for rapid adaptive evolution under adverse conditions.[1]


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