Rates of molecular evolution in bacteria are relatively constant despite spore dormancy

Evolution. 2007 Feb;61(2):280-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2007.00026.x.


Rates of molecular evolution are known to vary considerably among lineages, partially due to differences in life-history traits such as generation time. The generation-time effect has been well documented in some eukaryotes, but its prevalence in prokaryotes is unknown. "Because many species of Firmicute bacteria spend long periods of time as metabolically dormant spores, which could result in fewer DNA substitutions per unit time, they present an excellent system for testing predictions of the molecular clock hypothesis." To test whether spore-forming bacteria evolve more slowly than their non-spore-forming relatives, I used phylogenetic methods to determine if there were differences in rates of amino acid substitution between spore-forming and non-spore-forming lineages of Firmicute bacteria. Although rates of evolution do vary among lineages, I find no evidence for an effect of spore-formation on evolutionary rate and, furthermore, evolutionary rates are similar to those calculated for enteric bacteria. These results support the notion that variation in generation time does not affect evolutionary rates in bacterial lineages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Phylogeny
  • Spores, Bacterial / physiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins