Dynamics of gene duplication and transposons in microbial genomes following a sudden environmental change

Nicholas Chia, Nigel Goldenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A variety of genome transformations can occur as a microbial population adapts to a large environmental change. In particular, genomic surveys indicate that, following the transition to an obligate, host-dependent symbiont, the density of transposons first rises, then subsequently declines over evolutionary time. Here we show that these observations can be accounted for by a class of generic stochastic models for the evolution of genomes in the presence of continuous selection and gene duplication. The models use a fitness function that allows for partial contributions from multiple gene copies, is an increasing but bounded function of copy number, and is optimal for one fully adapted gene copy. We use Monte Carlo simulation to show that the dynamics result in an initial rise in gene copy number followed by a subsequent falloff due to adaptation to the new environmental parameters. These results are robust for reasonable gene duplication and mutation parameters when adapting to a novel target sequence. Our model provides a generic explanation for the dynamics of microbial transposon density following a large environmental change such as host restriction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021906
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 16 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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