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  1. Abstract

    The fitness effects of all possible mutations available to an organism largely shape the dynamics of evolutionary adaptation. Yet, whether and how this adaptive landscape changes over evolutionary times, especially upon ecological diversification and changes in community composition, remains poorly understood. We sought to fill this gap by analyzing a stable community of two closely related ecotypes (“L” and “S”) shortly after they emerged within theE. coliLong-Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE). We engineered genome-wide barcoded transposon libraries to measure the invasion fitness effects of all possible gene knockouts in the coexisting strains as well as their ancestor, for many different, ecologically relevant conditions. We find consistent statistical patterns of fitness effect variation across both genetic background and community composition, despite the idiosyncratic behavior of individual knockouts. Additionally, fitness effects are correlated with evolutionary outcomes for a number of conditions, possibly revealing shifting patterns of adaptation. Together, our results reveal how ecological and epistatic effects combine to shape the adaptive landscape in a nascent ecological community.

  2. Bacteria are efficient colonizers of a wide range of secluded microhabitats, such as soil pores, skin follicles, or intestinal crypts. How the structural diversity of these habitats modulates microbial self-organization remains poorly understood, in part because of the difficulty to precisely manipulate the physical structure of microbial environments. Using a microfluidic device to grow bacteria in crypt-like incubation chambers of systematically varied lengths, we show that small variations in the physical structure of the microhabitat can drastically alter bacterial colonization success and resistance against invaders. Small crypts are uncolonizable; intermediately sized crypts can stably support dilute populations, while beyond a second critical length scale, populations phase separate into a dilute region and a jammed region. The jammed state is characterized by extreme colonization resistance, even if the resident strain is suppressed by an antibiotic. Combined with a flexible biophysical model, we demonstrate that colonization resistance and associated priority effects can be explained by a crowding-induced phase transition, which results from a competition between proliferation and density-dependent cell leakage. The emerging sensitivity to scale underscores the need to control for scale in microbial ecology experiments. Systematic flow-adjustable length-scale variations may serve as a promising strategy to elucidate further scale-sensitive tipping pointsmore »and to rationally modulate the stability and resilience of microbial colonizers.« less
  3. Abstract

    Demographic noise, the change in the composition of a population due to random birth and death events, is an important driving force in evolution because it reduces the efficacy of natural selection. Demographic noise is typically thought to be set by the population size and the environment, but recent experiments with microbial range expansions have revealed substantial strain-level differences in demographic noise under the same growth conditions. Many genetic and phenotypic differences exist between strains; to what extent do single mutations change the strength of demographic noise? To investigate this question, we developed a high-throughput method for measuring demographic noise in colonies without the need for genetic manipulation. By applying this method to 191 randomly-selected single gene deletion strains from theE. coliKeio collection, we find that a typical single gene deletion mutation decreases demographic noise by 8% (maximal decrease: 81%). We find that the strength of demographic noise is an emergent trait at the population level that can be predicted by colony-level traits but not cell-level traits. The observed differences in demographic noise from single gene deletions can increase the establishment probability of beneficial mutations by almost an order of magnitude (compared to in the wild type). Our resultsmore »show that single mutations can substantially alter adaptation through their effects on demographic noise and suggest that demographic noise can be an evolvable trait of a population.

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  4. Range expansions lead to distinctive patterns of genetic variation in populations, even in the absence of selection. These patterns and their genetic consequences have been well studied for populations advancing through successive short-ranged migration events. However, most populations harbor some degree of long-range dispersal, experiencing rare yet consequential migration events over arbitrarily long distances. Although dispersal is known to strongly affect spatial genetic structure during range expansions, the resulting patterns and their impact on neutral diversity remain poorly understood. Here, we systematically study the consequences of long-range dispersal on patterns of neutral variation during range expansion in a class of dispersal models which spans the extremes of local (effectively short-ranged) and global (effectively well-mixed) migration. We find that sufficiently long-ranged dispersal leaves behind a mosaic of monoallelic patches, whose number and size are highly sensitive to the distribution of dispersal distances. We develop a coarse-grained model which connects statistical features of these spatial patterns to the evolution of neutral diversity during the range expansion. We show that growth mechanisms that appear qualitatively similar can engender vastly different outcomes for diversity: Depending on the tail of the dispersal distance distribution, diversity can be either preserved (i.e., many variants survive) or lostmore »(i.e., one variant dominates) at long times. Our results highlight the impact of spatial and migratory structure on genetic variation during processes as varied as range expansions, species invasions, epidemics, and the spread of beneficial mutations in established populations.

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  5. Microbial communities can evade competitive exclusion by diversifying into distinct ecological niches. This spontaneous diversification often occurs amid a backdrop of directional selection on other microbial traits, where competitive exclusion would normally apply. Yet despite their empirical relevance, little is known about how diversification and directional selection combine to determine the ecological and evolutionary dynamics within a community. To address this gap, we introduce a simple, empirically motivated model of eco-evolutionary feedback based on the competition for substitutable resources. Individuals acquire heritable mutations that alter resource uptake rates, either by shifting metabolic effort between resources or by increasing the overall growth rate. While these constitutively beneficial mutations are trivially favored to invade, we show that the accumulated fitness differences can dramatically influence the ecological structure and evolutionary dynamics that emerge within the community. Competition between ecological diversification and ongoing fitness evolution leads to a state of diversification–selection balance, in which the number of extant ecotypes can be pinned below the maximum capacity of the ecosystem, while the ecotype frequencies and genealogies are constantly in flux. Interestingly, we find that fitness differences generate emergent selection pressures to shift metabolic effort toward resources with lower effective competition, even in saturated ecosystems. Wemore »argue that similar dynamical features should emerge in a wide range of models with a mixture of directional and diversifying selection.

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