In this study, four clinical isolates and over 100 colony morphology mutants, previously derived spontaneously from strain 3153A during growth on glucose medium, were examined for their utilization of 21 carbon and 3 nitrogen sources at various growth temperatures. The results demonstrated extensive variability in the pattern of assimilation among the mutants and strains, including both the gain and loss of assimilating functions. The persistent alterations in assimilation patterns observed in sequentially produced subclones illustrated an extensive ability of populations to constantly produce new combinations of assimilating functions. The variability among spontaneous mutants derived from a single strain explains the well documented variability among natural isolates. From these results we established a relationship between the previously documented broad spectrum of spontaneous chromosomal aberrations in these mutants to the expression of genes controlling the utilization of alternative carbon and nitrogen sources. The existence of cryptic genes, responsible for growth on alternative substrates, was previously deduced from the analysis of other mutants obtained as a response to the restrictive condition on media containing non-assimilating carbon sources. Thus, mutants with altered assimilation functions can arise either on glucose medium or by selection on restricted media. Extensive differences between the patterns of chromosomal aberrations and the distribution of correlated phenotypes in the two groups of mutants indicated that the same phenotypes may be produced by two different mechanisms involving the same or different genes.


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