Bennett, A. F., and R. E. Lenski. 1996. Evolutionary adaptation to temperature. V. Adaptive mechanisms and correlated responses in experimental lines of Escherichia coli. Evolution 50:493-503.
We previously demonstrated temperature-specific genetic adaptation in experimental lines of Escherichia coil. Six initially identical populations were propagated for 2000 generations under each of five regimes: constant 20 degrees C, 32 degrees C, 37 degrees C, and 42 degrees C, and a daily switch between 32 degrees C and 42 degrees C. Glucose was the sole carbon source in all cases. Here, we examine the physiological bases of adaptation to determine whether the same mechanisms evolved among the replicate lines within each thermal regime and across different regimes. Specifically, we investigate whether changes in glucose transport may account for the temperature-specific adaptation. We compared each line's direct response of fitness to glucose with its correlated response to maltose; glucose and maltose enter the cell by different pathways, but their catabolism is identical. Except for lines maintained at the ancestral temperature (37 degrees C), almost all derived lines had significantly different fitnesses (relative to their common ancestor) in glucose and maltose, supporting the hypothesis that adaptation involved changes in glucose transport. An alternative explanation, that maltose transport decayed by genetic drift, appears unlikely for reasons that are discussed. Although most lines showed evidence of temperature-specific adaptation in glucose transport, several different mechanisms may underlie these improvements, as indicated by heterogeneity in correlated responses (across temperatures and substrates) among replicate lines adapted to the same regime. This heterogeneity provides a latent pool of genetic variation for responding to environmental change.