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A Molecular Approach to the Study of Genetics and Evolution

Role of the experiment:

To demonstrate the adaptation to the experimental environment (fitness) by use of Escheria Coli(E Coli).

Introduction

In the study of molecular genetics, it has been determined that populations adapt rapidly when exposed to a new environment. This is as a result of genetic mutations that occur in organisms that enable them to survive in the changing environments. Those that do not undergo mutation are not able to survive and will die. Use of microorganisms in controlled and replicated experiments such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast enable investigation of how their genomes evolve over hundreds and thousands of generations.

Scope

A population was established from a single clone and propagated in a controlled and reproducible environment. A sample of the ancestral population was stored while frozen at -800c. Thereafter, the ancestral and the derived genotypes were compared with respect to the fitness. First, the two populations were grown separately in the competitive environment to ensure that they are comparably acclimated to the test conditions. They were then mixed (usually at ratio 1:1) and diluted a hundred-fold in the competitive environment. Initial densities at time point t=0 were estimated by diluting and so spreading the cells on an indicator agar that distinguished the evolved and ancestral types by colony color, which differs due to an engineered marker that is selectively neutral(the Ara gene ). The red colonies corresponded to the Ara- phenotypes and the white to the Ara+ phenotypes. After one day, the final densities were estimated by plating the cells as before on the indicator agar. The growth rate of each competitor was calculated as the natural logarithm of the ratio of its final density to its initial density. Relative fitness was then defined simply as the ratio of the realized growth rates of the evolved and ancestral types.

Concept

“Fitness reflects the propensity to leave ancestors” Elena and Lenski (2003). It is a comparison of the population growth rates achieved by each genotype as they compete for a pool of resources.

Learning outcome

The Ara – phenotypes were the most abundant at t=1 and as such an indication that the derived genotype had undergone various mutations that enabled them to survive better in the experimental environment and the ancestral genotype Ara- phenotype did not mutate and thus could not survive in the experimental environment.

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