Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Synthetic and Evolutionary Construction of a Chlorate-Reducing Shewanella oneidensis MR-1.



Despite evidence for the prevalence of horizontal gene transfer of respiratory genes, little is known about how pathways functionally integrate within new hosts. One example of a mobile respiratory metabolism is bacterial chlorate reduction, which is frequently encoded on composite transposons. This implies that the essential components of the metabolism are encoded on these mobile elements. To test this, we heterologously expressed genes for chlorate reduction from Shewanella algae ACDC in the non-chlorate-reducing Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. The construct that ultimately endowed robust growth on chlorate included cld, a cytochrome c gene, clrABDC, and two genes of unknown function. Although strain MR-1 was unable to grow on chlorate after initial insertion of these genes into the chromosome, 11 derived strains capable of chlorate respiration were obtained through adaptive evolution. Genome resequencing indicated that all of the evolved chlorate-reducing strains replicated a large genomic region containing chlorate reduction genes. Contraction in copy number and loss of the ability to reduce chlorate were also observed, indicating that this phenomenon was extremely dynamic. Although most strains contained more than six copies of the replicated region, a single strain with less duplication also grew rapidly. This strain contained three additional mutations that we hypothesized compensated for the low copy number. We remade the mutations combinatorially in the unevolved strain and determined that a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) upstream of cld enabled growth on chlorate and was epistatic to a second base pair change in the NarP binding sequence between narQP and nrfA that enhanced growth.


The ability of chlorate reduction composite transposons to form functional metabolisms after transfer to a new host is an important part of their propagation. To study this phenomenon, we engineered Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 into a chlorate reducer. We defined a set of genes sufficient to endow growth on chlorate from a plasmid, but found that chromosomal insertion of these genes was nonfunctional. Evolution of this inoperative strain into a chlorate reducer showed that tandem duplication was a dominant mechanism of activation. While copy number changes are a relatively rapid way of increasing gene dosage, replicating almost 1 megabase of extra DNA is costly. Mutations that alleviate the need for high copy number are expected to arise and eventually predominate, and we identified a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) that relieved the copy number requirement. This study uses both rational and evolutionary approaches to gain insight into the evolution of a fascinating respiratory metabolism.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View