DNA repair and the evolution of transformation IV. DNA damage increases transformation

Richard E. Michod, Martin F. Wojciechowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Natural genetic transformation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis provides a model system to explore the evolutionary function of sexual recombination. In the present work, we study the response of transformation to UV irradiation using donor DNAs that differ in sequence homology to the recipient's chromosome and in the mechanism of transformation. The four donor DNAs used include homologous‐chromosomal‐DNA, two plasmids containing a fragment of B. subtilis trp+ operon DNA and a plasmid with no sequence homology to the recipient cell's DNA. Transformation frequencies for these DNA molecules increase with increasing levels of DNA damage (UV radiation) to recipient cells, only if their transformation requires homologous recombination (i.e. is recA+‐dependent). Transformation with non‐homologous DNA is independent of the recipient's recombination system and transformation frequencies for it do not respond to increases in UV radiation. The transformation frequency for a selectable marker increases in response to DNA damage more dramatically when the locus is present on small, plasmid‐borne, homologous fragments than if it is carried on high molecular weight chromosomal fragments. We also study the kinetics of transformation for the different donor DNAs. Different kinetics are observed for homologous transformation depending on whether the homologous locus is carried on a plasmid or on chromosomal fragments. Chromosomal DNA‐ and non‐homologous‐plasmid‐DNA‐mediated transformation is complete (maximal) within several minutes, while transformation with a plasmid containing homologous DNA is still occurring after an hour. The results indicate that DNA damage directly increases rates of homologous recombination and transformation in B. subtilis. The relevance of these results and recent results of other labs to the evolution of transformation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-175
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1994


  • DNA damage
  • Sex
  • evolution.
  • genetic error
  • recombination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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