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

Rapid in vivo evolution of a beta-lactamase using phagemids.

RNA viruses are capable of undergoing extremely rapid evolution due to their high rates of reproduction, small genome size, and a high frequency of spontaneous mutagenesis. Here we demonstrate that a virus-like, evolutionary state can be created by propagating a phagemid population in a hypermutator strain of Escherichia coli in the presence of a helper phage. This enables one to subject individual phagemid-encoded genes to rapid in vivo evolution. We applied this approach to TEM-1 beta-lactamase which confers resistance to 0.05 mg/L of the antibiotic cefotaxime. After 3 weeks of in vivo evolution we were able to isolate a double mutant, E104K/G238S, of the enzyme which confers a 500-fold increased level of resistance to cefotaxime compared to the starting enzyme. In two independent experiments we obtained a triple mutant, E104K/G238S/T263M, which confers a 1000-fold increase in resistance compared to the wild type enzyme. The same three mutations have been previously observed in TEM-4 beta-lactamase which was discovered in a highly cefotaxime-resistant clinical isolate. The probability of randomly obtaining a beta-lactamase carrying three identical point mutations is less than 10(-10). This indicates that phagemid evolution can rapidly reproduce evolution occurring in nature.[1]


  1. Rapid in vivo evolution of a beta-lactamase using phagemids. Long-McGie, J., Liu, A.D., Schellenberger, V. Biotechnol. Bioeng. (2000) [Pubmed]
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