An approach to quickly identify genetic mutations that help bacteria survive under challenging conditions is reported online this week in Nature Methods. This method can be applied to study the evolution of different microbes.
Since bacteria adapt quickly to their environment, they are the ideal organisms to study evolution on a laboratory time-scale. The challenge in these studies is twofold: first to identify all differences between the original strain and the evolved strain, and second to determine which genetic mutations are responsible for the adaptation to the new environment in the evolved strain.
Saeed Tavazoie and colleagues developed a new technology they call ADAM, for array-based discovery of adaptive mutations, which searches entire genomes of bacterial strains to pinpoint the mutations that contribute to the phenotypic variation between an evolved strain and its parent. Importantly, ADAM allows the researchers to distinguish between mutations that help the bacteria adapt to their environment and those that have no effect.
ADAM's rapid and sensitive profiling of adaptive mutations will also be useful for the development of customized bacterial strains.