Temporal dynamics of bacteria-plasmid coevolution under antibiotic selection

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Horizontally acquired genes can be costly to express even if they encode useful traits, such as antibiotic resistance. We previously showed that when selected with tetracycline, Escherichia coli carrying the tetracycline-resistance plasmid RK2 evolved mutations on both replicons that together provided increased tetracycline resistance at reduced cost. Here we investigate the temporal dynamics of this intragenomic coevolution. Using genome sequencing we show that the order of adaptive mutations was highly repeatable across three independently evolving populations. Each population first gained a chromosomal mutation in ompF which shortened lag phase and increased tetracycline resistance. This was followed by mutations impairing the plasmid-encoded tetracycline efflux pump, and finally, additional resistance-associated chromosomal mutations. Thus, reducing the cost of the horizontally acquired tetracycline resistance was contingent on first evolving a degree of chromosomally encoded resistance. We conclude therefore that the trajectory of bacteria-plasmid coevolution was constrained to a single repeatable path.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-562
Number of pages4
JournalISME Journal
Issue number2
Early online date12 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • antibiotics
  • molecular evolution


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