Evolution of organismal stoichiometry in a long-term experiment with Escherichia coli

Royal Society Open Science
Caroline B TurnerRichard E Lenski


Organismal stoichiometry refers to the relative proportion of chemical elements in the biomass of organisms, and it can have important effects on ecological interactions from population to ecosystem scales. Although stoichiometry has been studied extensively from an ecological perspective, much less is known about the rates and directions of evolutionary changes in elemental composition. We measured carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus content of 12 Escherichia coli populations that evolved under controlled carbon-limited, serial-transfer conditions for 50 000 generations. The bacteria evolved higher relative nitrogen and phosphorus content, consistent with selection for increased use of the more abundant elements. Total carbon assimilated also increased, indicating more efficient use of the limiting element. We also measured stoichiometry in one population repeatedly through time. Stoichiometry changed more rapidly in early generations than later on, similar to the trajectory seen for competitive fitness. Altogether, our study shows that stoichiometry evolved over long time periods, and that it did so in a predictable direction, given the carbon-limited environment.

Associated Datasets


Jul 19, 1994·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·Richard E Lenski, M Travisano
Sep 1, 1996·Journal of Bacteriology·J A Mongold, Richard E Lenski
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Dec 19, 2012·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·Sébastien WielgossDominique Schneider
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Aug 16, 2017·Nature Ecology & Evolution·Carlos Reding-RomanRobert Beardmore

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