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Quantifying the interplay between rapid bacterial evolution within the mouse intestine and transmission between hosts

By Kimberly S Vasquez, Lisa Willis, Nate Cira, Katharine M Ng, Miguel F Pedro, Andres Aranda-Diaz, Manohary Rajendram, Feiqiao Brian Yu, Steven K Higginbottom, Norma Neff, Gavin J Sherlock, Karina B. Xavier, Stephen Quake, Justin Sonnenburg, Benjamin H Good, Kerwyn Casey Huang

Posted 05 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.04.412072

Due to limitations on high-resolution strain tracking, selection dynamics during gut-microbiota colonization and transmission between hosts remain mostly mysterious. Here, we introduced hundreds of barcoded Escherichia coli strains into germ-free mice and quantified strain-level dynamics and metagenomic changes. Mutants involved in motility and utilization of abundant metabolites were reproducibly selected within days. Even with rapid selection, coprophagy enforced similar barcode distributions across co-housed mice. Whole-genome sequencing of hundreds of isolates quantified evolutionary dynamics and revealed linked alleles. A population-genetics model predicted substantial fitness advantages for certain mutants and that migration accounted for ~10% of the resident microbiota each day. Treatment with ciprofloxacin demonstrated the interplay between selection and transmission. While initial colonization was mostly uniform, in two mice a bottleneck reduced diversity and selected for ciprofloxacin resistance in the absence of drug. These findings highlight the interplay between environmental transmission and rapid, deterministic selection during evolution of the intestinal microbiota.

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