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Directed Evolution of Metabolic Pathways in Microbial Populations. I. Modification of the Acid Phosphatase Ph Optimum in S. CEREVISIAE

The Genetics Society of America
Publication Date
  • Investigations
  • Biology


An experimental system for directing the evolution of enzymes and metabolic pathways in microbial populations is proposed and an initial test of its power is provided.—The test involved an attempt to genetically enhance certain functional properties of the enzyme acid phosphatase in S. cerevisiae by constructing an environment in which the functional changes desired would be "adaptive". Naturally occurring mutations in a population of 109 cells were automatically and continuously screened, over 1,000 generations, for their effect on the efficiency (Km) and activity of acid phosphatase at pH 6, and for their effect on the efficiency of orthophosphate metabolism.—The first adaptation observed, M1, was due to a single mutational event that effected a 30% increase in the efficiency of orthophosphate metabolism. The second, M2, effected an adaptive shift in the pH optimum of acid phosphatase and an increase in its activity over a wide range of pH values (an increment of 60% at pH 6). M2 was shown to result from a single mutational event in the region of the acid phosphatase structural gene. The third, M3, effected cell clumping, an adaptation to the culture apparatus that had no effect on phosphate metabolism.—The power of this system for directing the evolution of enzymes and of metabolic pathways is discussed in terms of the kinetic properties of the experimental system and in terms of the results obtained.

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