Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Lenski, Richard E.
Location Michigan State University
Primary Field Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Field Environmental Sciences and Ecology
 Election Citation
Lenski has conducted landmark studies of experimental evolution in the bacterium Escherichia coli. In one experiment that has lasted for over 18 years, he continues to observe 12 cell lines evolving in isolation. His research has provided important insight into host-parasite interactions and antibiotic resistance.
 Research Interests
I am broadly interested in the ecological and genetic processes that underlie evolution. I pursue an experimental approach to evolution by using bacteria to take advantage of their rapid generations and large populations. In one experiment that started 18 years ago, my lab monitors 12 populations of Escherichia coli as they evolve in a defined environment for over 40,000 generations. We characterize the dynamics of adaptation and divergence as well as identify genetic changes responsible for adaptation. In other projects, we have performed experiments with bacteria, viruses, and plasmids to test hypotheses about the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of host-parasite interactions. We have shown the importance of compensatory mutations for the spread of antibiotic resistance. We have studied the evolution of mutation rates, and the mathematical form of interactions among mutations. We provided experimental support for some alternatives to the controversial hypothesis of 'directed' mutation. We examined sociality in the bacterium Myxococcus xanthus and discovered genotypes that 'cheat' by behaviors that enhance their fitness while harming group performance. For the last decade, I have collaborated on multi-disciplinary research with 'digital organisms' - computer programs that self-replicate, mutate, compete, and evolve - that explores the evolution of biological complexity including metabolic networks, sexual reproduction, and ecological communities.

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