Bacterial Adaptation through Loss of Function
The hypothetical organism's fitness (shading) depends only on the concentration of two environmental factors. The area enclosed by the red dotted line indicates the typical range of these parameters in the native environment. ‘X’ indicates the parameter values in a new environment. (A) Fitness of the wild-type organism, which is tuned to be optimal in the native environment. Even if an organism's genome encodes proteins that would confer high fitness in a new environment, its regulatory network might limit the actual fitness achieved. (B) Fitness of a mutated network that might result from a single regulatory null mutation. While not optimal, the mutated network may be advantageous in a new environment by breaking the previous mapping of environment to phenotype. (C) Extended evolution in the new environment will rewire the organism's regulatory network to allow the cell to optimize the use of its genetic resources (even in the absence of new genes).