Quantifying stochastic establishment of mutants in microbial adaptation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Studies of microbial evolution, especially in applied contexts, have focused on the role of selection in shaping predictable, adaptive responses to the environment. However, chance events – the appearance of novel genetic variants and their establishment, i.e. outgrowth from a single cell to a sizeable population – also play critical initiating roles in adaptation. Stochasticity in establishment has received little attention in microbiology, potentially due to lack of awareness as well as practical challenges in quantification. However, methods for high-replicate culturing, mutant labelling and detection, and statistical inference now make it feasible to experimentally quantify the establishment probability of specific adaptive genotypes. I review methods that have emerged over the past decade, including experimental design and mathematical formulas to estimate establishment probability from data. Quantifying establishment in further biological settings and comparing empirical estimates to theoretical predictions represent exciting future directions. More broadly, recognition that adaptive genotypes may be stochastically lost while rare is significant both for interpreting common lab assays and for designing interventions to promote or inhibit microbial evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Article number001365
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • experimental evolution
  • mutation
  • establishment probability
  • fixation probability
  • demographic stochasticity
  • genetic drift
  • gene surfing
  • extinction
  • statistical inference
  • seeding assay
  • predictability
  • population dynamics


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