The functional basis of adaptive evolution in chemostats

David Gresham, Jungeui Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two of the central problems in biology are determining the molecular basis of adaptive evolution and understanding how cells regulate their growth. The chemostat is a device for culturing cells that provides great utility in tackling both of these problems: it enables precise control of the selective pressure under which organisms evolve and it facilitates experimental control of cell growth rate. The aim of this review is to synthesize results from studies of the functional basis of adaptive evolution in long-term chemostat selections using Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We describe the principle of the chemostat, provide a summary of studies of experimental evolution in chemostats, and use these studies to assess our current understanding of selection in the chemostat. Functional studies of adaptive evolution in chemostats provide a unique means of interrogating the genetic networks that control cell growth, which complements functional genomic approaches and quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping in natural populations. An integrated approach to the study of adaptive evolution that accounts for both molecular function and evolutionary processes is critical to advancing our understanding of evolution. By renewing efforts to integrate these two research programs, experimental evolution in chemostats is ideally suited to extending the functional synthesis to the study of genetic networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-16
Number of pages15
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Cell growth
  • Chemostats
  • Copy number variation
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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