Synergistic coevolution accelerates genome evolution : [Preprint]

Ecological interactions are key drivers of evolutionary change. Although it is well-documented that antagonistic coevolution can accelerate molecular evolution, the evolutionary consequences of synergistic coevolution remain poorly understood. Here we show experimentally that also synergistic coevolution can speed up the rate of molecular evolution. Pairs of auxotrophic genotypes of the bacterium Escherichia coli, whose growth depended on a reciprocal exchange of amino acids, were experimentally coevolved, and compared to two control groups of independently growing cells. Coevolution drove the rapid emergence of a strong metabolic cooperation that correlated with a significantly increased number of mutations in coevolved auxotrophs as compared to monoculture controls. These results demonstrate that synergistic coevolution can cause rapid evolution that in the long run may drive diversification of mutualistically interacting species.

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