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Parallel evolution is the independent evolution of the same phenotype or genotype in response to the same selection pressure. There are examples of parallel molecular evolution across divergent genetic backgrounds, suggesting that genetic background may not play an important role in determining the outcome of adaptation. Here, we measure the influence of genetic background on phenotypic and molecular adaptation by combining experimental evolution with comparative analysis. We selected for resistance to the antibiotic rifampicin in eight strains of bacteria from the genus Pseudomonas using a short term selection experiment. Adaptation occurred by 47 mutations at conserved sites in rpoB, the target of rifampicin, and due to the high diversity of possible mutations the probability of within-strain parallel evolution was low. The probability of between-strain parallel evolution was only marginally lower, because different strains substituted similar rpoB mutations. In contrast, we found that more than 30% of the phenotypic variation in the growth rate of evolved clones was attributable to among-strain differences. Parallel molecular evolution across strains resulted in divergent phenotypic evolution because rpoB mutations had different effects on growth rate in different strains. This study shows that genetic divergence between strains constrains parallel phenotypic evolution, but had little detectable impact on the molecular basis of adaptation in this system.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Biol Evol

Publication Date





3314 - 3323


Pseudomonas, adaptation, antibiotic resistance, comparative biology, experimental evolution, selection experiment, Adaptation, Biological, Antibiotics, Antitubercular, Bacterial Proteins, Drug Resistance, Microbial, Evolution, Molecular, Genes, Bacterial, Genetic Drift, Mutation, Phenotype, Phylogeny, Pseudomonas, Rifampin, Selection, Genetic