Selective and non-selective bottlenecks as drivers of the evolution of hypermutable bacterial loci
journal contributionposted on 19.05.2020, 13:24 by Megan De Ste Croix, Jonathan Holmes, Joseph J Wanford, E Richard Moxon, Marco R Oggioni, Christopher D Bayliss
Bottlenecks reduce the size of the gene pool within populations of all life forms with implications for their subsequent survival. Here, we examine the effects of bottlenecks on bacterial commensal-pathogens during transmission between, and dissemination within, hosts. By reducing genetic diversity, bottlenecks may alter individual or population-wide adaptive potential. A diverse range of hypermutable mechanisms have evolved in infectious agents that allow for rapid generation of genetic diversity in specific genomic loci as opposed to the variability arising from increased genome-wide mutation rates. These localised hypermutable mechanisms include multi-gene phase variation (PV) of outer membrane components, multi-allele PV of restriction systems and recombination-driven antigenic variation. We review selected experimental and theoretical (mathematical) models pertaining to the hypothesis that localised hypermutation (LH) compensates for fitness losses caused by bottlenecks and discuss whether bottlenecks have driven the evolution of hypermutable loci.