Antibiotic resistance evolution is studied

April 11, 2006

Harvard University scientists say Darwinian evolution follows very few of the available mutational pathways to attain fitter proteins.

The study involved a gene whose mutant form increases bacterial resistance to a widely prescribed antibiotic by a factor of roughly 100,000.

The researchers' work indicates that of 120 five-step mutational paths that theoretically could grant antibiotic resistance, only about 10 actually endow bacteria with a meaningful evolutionary advantage.

"Just as there are many alternate routes one might follow in driving from Boston to New York, one intrinsic property of DNA is that very many distinct mutational paths link any two variants of a gene," said lead author Daniel Weinreich, a research associate in Harvard's department of organismic and evolutionary biology.

"Although this fact has been recognized for at least 35 years, its implications for evolution by natural selection have remained unexplored," Weinreich said. "Specifically, it is of great interest to determine whether natural selection regards these many mutational paths equivalently."

The research is detailed in the journal Science.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Scientists identify genetic catalysts that speed up evolution of antibiotic resistance

Related Stories

Bacteria show surprising number of genetic paths to survival

December 13, 2013

(Phys.org) —A boy with cystic fibrosis develops a chronic and potentially deadly Burkholderia dolosa infection in his lungs. Varieties of genetic mutations allow some strains of the bacteria to survive the dual assaults ...

Scientists reverse bacterial resistance to antibiotics

May 6, 2015

The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a growing problem in the United States and the world. New findings by researchers in evolutionary biology and mathematics could help doctors better address the problem in a clinical ...

Recommended for you

A phonon laser operating at an exceptional point

July 20, 2018

The basic quanta of light (photon) and sound (phonon) are bosonic particles that largely obey similar rules and are in general very good analogs of one another. Physicists have explored this analogy in recent experimental ...

Did a rogue star change the makeup of our solar system?

July 20, 2018

A team of researchers from the Max-Planck Institute and Queen's University has used new information to test a theory that suggests a rogue star passed close enough to our solar system millions of years ago to change its configuration. ...

Where to search for signs of life on Titan

July 20, 2018

New findings, published in the journal Astrobiology, suggest that large craters are the prime locations in which to find the building blocks of life on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

Researchers report two-faced Janus membrane applications

July 20, 2018

Named for the mythical god with two faces, Janus membranes—double-sided membranes that serve as gatekeepers between two substances—have emerged as a material with potential industrial uses. Creating two distinct "faces" ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.