Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 has the potential to be a versatile bacterial host for synthetic biology because it is naturally transformable. To examine the genetic reliability of this desirable trait and to understand the potential stability of other engineered capabilities, we propagated ADP1 for 1,000 generations of growth in rich nutrient broth and analyzed the genetic changes that evolved by whole-genome sequencing. Substantially reduced transformability and increased cellular aggregation evolved during the experiment. New insertions of IS1236 transposable elements and IS1236-mediated deletions led to these phenotypes in most cases and were common overall among the selected mutations. We also observed a 49-kb deletion of a prophage region that removed an integration site, which has been used for genome engineering, from every evolved genome. The comparatively low rates of these three classes of mutations in lineages that were propagated with reduced selection for 7,500 generations indicate that they increase ADP1 fitness under common laboratory growth conditions. Our results suggest that eliminating transposable elements and other genetic failure modes that affect key organismal traits is essential for improving the reliability of metabolic engineering and genome editing in undomesticated microbial hosts, such as Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1.
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