Adaptation to diverse nitrogen-limited environments by deletion or extrachromosomal element formation of the GAP1 locus

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Oct 26;107(43):18551-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1014023107. Epub 2010 Oct 11.


To study adaptive evolution in defined environments, we performed evolution experiments with Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) in nitrogen-limited chemostat cultures. We used DNA microarrays to identify copy-number variation associated with adaptation and observed frequent amplifications and deletions at the GAP1 locus. GAP1 encodes the general amino acid permease, which transports amino acids across the plasma membrane. We identified a self-propagating extrachromosomal circular DNA molecule that results from intrachromosomal recombination between long terminal repeats (LTRs) flanking GAP1. Extrachromosomal DNA circles (GAP1(circle)) contain GAP1, the replication origin ARS1116, and a single hybrid LTR derived from recombination between the two flanking LTRs. Formation of the GAP1(circle) is associated with deletion of chromosomal GAP1 (gap1Δ) and production of a single hybrid LTR at the GAP1 chromosomal locus. The GAP1(circle) is selected following prolonged culturing in L-glutamine-limited chemostats in a manner analogous to the selection of oncogenes present on double minutes in human cancers. Clones carrying only the gap1Δ allele were selected under various non-amino acid nitrogen limitations including ammonium, urea, and allantoin limitation. Previous studies have shown that the rate of intrachromosomal recombination between tandem repeats is stimulated by transcription of the intervening sequence. The high level of GAP1 expression in nitrogen-limited chemostats suggests that the frequency of GAP1(circle) and gap1Δ generation may be increased under nitrogen-limiting conditions. We propose that this genomic architecture facilitates evolvability of S. cerevisiae populations exposed to variation in levels and sources of environmental nitrogen.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / genetics*
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Breaks
  • DNA, Circular / genetics
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • Extrachromosomal Inheritance
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genes, Fungal*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Terminal Repeat Sequences


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems
  • DNA, Circular
  • DNA, Fungal
  • GAP1 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Nitrogen