Laboratory Evolution of Microbial Interactions in Bacterial Biofilms

J Bacteriol. 2016 Sep 9;198(19):2564-71. doi: 10.1128/JB.01018-15. Print 2016 Oct 1.


Microbial adaptation is conspicuous in essentially every environment, but the mechanisms of adaptive evolution are poorly understood. Studying evolution in the laboratory under controlled conditions can be a tractable approach, particularly when new, discernible phenotypes evolve rapidly. This is especially the case in the spatially structured environments of biofilms, which promote the occurrence and stability of new, heritable phenotypes. Further, diversity in biofilms can give rise to nascent social interactions among coexisting mutants and enable the study of the emerging field of sociomicrobiology. Here, we review findings from laboratory evolution experiments with either Pseudomonas fluorescens or Burkholderia cenocepacia in spatially structured environments that promote biofilm formation. In both systems, ecotypes with overlapping niches evolve and produce competitive or facilitative interactions that lead to novel community attributes, demonstrating the parallelism of adaptive processes captured in the lab.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Burkholderia cenocepacia / physiology*
  • Directed Molecular Evolution*
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens / physiology*