University of Cambridge > > CUED Control Group Seminars > The role of space in evolution: insights from microbial and viral expansions

The role of space in evolution: insights from microbial and viral expansions

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  • UserDiana Fusco, University of Cambridge
  • ClockThursday 11 March 2021, 14:00-15:00
  • HouseOnline (Zoom).

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Thiago Burghi.

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Spatially growing populations are ubiquitous across scales, ranging from microbial biofilms in the soil to expanding tissues in developing organs and the spreading of diseases. In spatial settings, individuals experience inhomogeneities in the surrounding environment that result in different growth rates across the population. Since replication is necessary to transmit the genetic information from mother to daughter, the growth dynamics determined by the spatial constraints can deeply affect the spreading of mutations in a population and thus its evolution.

I will present two examples in which the simple spatial constraints associated with two-dimensional growth affect both the genetic diversity and the adaptation of microbial and viral populations, respectively. Population sequencing and fluorescence imaging show that microbial colonies exhibit an excess of mutational jackpot events compared to a well-mixed population of the same size. Moreover, most mutant clones are trapped in the bulk of the colony, ready to be released upon an environmental change, and rescue the population. A very different growth dynamics is instead observed in bacteriophage T7 two-dimensional plaques. Here, we find that the underlying infection dynamic and the hindered diffusion caused by the presence of bacteria generate a density-dependent dispersal for the virus, which leads to an unexpected cooperative behavior during the expansion. As a result, viral populations maintain genetic diversity for much longer than previously expected, with important consequences on their ability to adapt.

This talk is part of the CUED Control Group Seminars series.

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