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Interactions between microbes can both constrain and enhance their adaptation to the environment. However, most studies to date have employed simplified microbial communities and environmental conditions. We determined how the presence of a commercial potting compost microbial community affected adaptation of the soil bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 in potting compost. Pseudomonas fluorescens clones isolated from populations evolved in both the presence and absence of the community showed similar fitness increases when measured in the absence of the community. This suggests the presence of the community did not constrain adaptation. By contrast, fitness measured in the presence of the community increased for community-evolved populations, but decreased below the ancestral state for populations evolved in the absence of the community. This suggests some, but not all, mutations that were beneficial with respect to the abiotic environment were costly in the presence of the community, with the former selected against in the presence of the community. Whole-genome sequencing supports this interpretation: most mutations underpinning fitness changes were clone-specific, suggesting multiple genetic pathways to adaptation. Such extreme mutational effects have not been observed in comparable in vitro studies, suggesting that caution is needed when extrapolating results from simplified in vitro systems to natural contexts.


Pedro Gómez, Alex R Hall, Steve Paterson, Angus Buckling. Rapid decline of adaptation of Pseudomonas fluorescens to soil biotic environment. Biology letters. 2022 Mar;18(3):20210593

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PMID: 35259940

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