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Title: Modelling evolution of genome size in prokaryotes in response to changes in their abiotic environment
Author: Bentkowski, Piotr
ISNI:       0000 0004 5352 0958
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2014
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The size of the genomes of known free-living prokaryotes varies from � 1:3 Mbp to � 13 Mbp. This thesis proposes a possible explanation of this variation due to variability of the physical conditions of the environment. In a stable environment, competition for the resource becomes the main force of selection and smaller (thus cheaper) genomes are favoured. In more variable conditions larger genomes will be preferred, as they have a wider range of response to a less predictable environment. An agent-based model (ABM) of genome evolution in an free-living prokaryotic population has been proposed. Using the classic Hutchinson niche space model, a gene was defined as a Gaussian function over a corresponding niche dimension. The cell can have more than one gene along a given dimension, and the envelope of all the corresponding responses is considered a full description of a cell’s phenotype over that dimension. Gene deletion, gene duplication, and modifying mutations are permitted during reproduction, so the number of genes and their phenotypic effect (height and position of the Gaussian envelope) are free to evolve. The surface under the curve is fixed to prevent ‘supergenes’ from occurring. Change of the environmental conditions is simulated as a bounded random walk with a varying length of the step (a parameter representing variability of the environment). Using this approach, the model is able to reproduce the phenomenon of genome streamlining in more stable environments (analogical to e.g. oligotrophic gyre regions of the ocean) and genome complexification in variable environments. Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) was also introduced, but was found to act in a similar manner as gene duplication and shown no important contribution to the speed of evolution and the adaptive potential of the population.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available