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Prokaryotic life finds a way: insights from evolutionary experimentation in bacteria

Lookup NU author(s): Dr James ConnollyORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. While evolution proceeds through the generation of random variant alleles, the application of selective pressures can select for subsets of mutations that confer fitness-improving physiological benefits. This, in essence, defines the process of adaptive evolution. The rapid replication rate of bacteria has allowed for the design of experiments to study these processes over a reasonable timeframe within a laboratory setting. This has been greatly assisted by advances in tractability of diverse microorganisms, next generation sequencing technologies and bioinformatic analysis pipelines. Examining the processes by which organisms adapt their genetic code to cope with sub-optimal growth conditions has yielded a wealth of molecular insight into diverse biological processes. Here we discuss how the study of adaptive evolutionary trajectories in bacteria has allowed for improved understanding of stress responses, revealed important insight into microbial physiology, allowed for the production of highly optimised strains for use in biotechnology and increased our knowledge of the role of genomic plasticity in chronic infections.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Connolly JPR, Roe AJ, O'Boyle N

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Reviews in Microbiology

Year: 2021

Volume: 47

Issue: 1

Pages: 126-140

Print publication date: 01/01/2021

Online publication date: 17/12/2020

Acceptance date: 17/11/2020

ISSN (print): 1040-841X

ISSN (electronic): 1549-7828

Publisher: Taylor and Francis Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/1040841X.2020.1854172