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Convergent Evolution of Hyperswarming Leads to Impaired Biofilm Formation in Pathogenic Bacteria

Sakhtah, Hassan; Dietrich, Lars

Most bacteria in nature live in surface-associated communities rather than planktonic populations. Nonetheless, how surface-associated environments shape bacterial evolutionary adaptation remains poorly understood. Here, we show that subjecting Pseudomonas aeruginosa to repeated rounds of swarming, a collective form of surface migration, drives remarkable parallel evolution toward a hyperswarmer phenotype. In all independently evolved hyperswarmers, the reproducible hyperswarming phenotype is caused by parallel point mutations in a flagellar synthesis regulator, FleN, which locks the naturally monoflagellated bacteria in a multiflagellated state and confers a growth rate-independent advantage in swarming. Although hyperswarmers outcompete the ancestral strain in swarming competitions, they are strongly outcompeted in biofilm formation, which is an essential trait for P. aeruginosa in environmental and clinical settings. The finding that evolution in swarming colonies reliably produces evolution of poor biofilm formers supports the existence of an evolutionary trade-off between motility and biofilm formation.

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Academic Units
Biological Sciences
Published Here
March 31, 2015
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