Mathematical models of microbial evolution

Ivana Gudelj (Imperial College London)

Thursday 3rd December, 2009 14:00-15:00 326, Maths Department


Microbes are ubiquitous in nature and occupy virtually every environmental niche on earth. Contributing to this evolutionary success are diverse metabolic strategies as well as the ability to adapt to changing environments. Experimental evolution has provided an ideal setting for studying microbial diversification in action –experiments are conducted in controlled environments using culturable strains that are easily manipulated due to their known genetic structure. However this simplified approach to evolution poses the following questions: How do we know whether a given experimental outcome is particular to the laboratory system? What can we learn from laboratory experiments about microorganisms in the wild? In this talk I argue that through the use of mathematical models we can begin to bridge the gap between laboratory and nature. I will present a series of mathematical models of microbial evolution reflecting different types of selection pressures that microbes repeatedly encounter in nature: 1. Evolution of metabolic strategies and 2. Evolution of resistance to pathogens. I will demonstrate that such models can make good quantitative predictions of a given laboratory experimental setup and discuss which of these predictions can be generalized to other microbial systems.

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