Nature Reviews Genetics 14, 221-227 (March 2013) | doi:10.1038/nrg3415

OpinionEvaluating evolutionary models of stress-induced mutagenesis in bacteria

R. Craig MacLean1, Clara Torres-Barceló1 & Richard Moxon2  About the authors


Increased mutation rates under stress allow bacterial populations to adapt rapidly to stressors, including antibiotics. Here we evaluate existing models for the evolution of stress-induced mutagenesis and present a new model arguing that it evolves as a result of a complex interplay between direct selection for increased stress tolerance, second-order selection for increased evolvability and genetic drift. Further progress in our understanding of the evolutionary biology of stress and mutagenesis will require a more detailed understanding both of the patterns of stress encountered by bacteria in nature and of the mutations that are produced under stress.

Author affiliations

  1. R. Craig MacLean and Clara Torres-Barcel are at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.
  2. Richard Moxon is at the University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DS, UK.

Correspondence to: R. Craig MacLean1 Email:

Published online 12 February 2013