Wagner Lab Research

University of Zurich

Institute of
Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies




Laboratory Evolution

How do organisms adapt to changing environments? Does their robustness to mutations facilitate such adaptation? What is the role of cryptic variation in evolutionary innovation? How does cellular noise affect evolution? How do gene duplications influence evolutionary adaptation? These are some questions that laboratory evolution experiments can answer. Most of our experiments are motivated by such general questions with broad implications for evolution, rather than by the desire to understand the natural history of any one group of organisms. We have been using experimental evolution in bacteria, yeast, and fruit flies, but also the directed evolution of proteins and RNA molecules to answer specific research questions. Our experiments rely on genomic technology, such as genome sequencing and RNA sequencing to identify genetic changes that arise in the course of evolution.


Selected Publications

Karve, S., Wagner, A. (2022) Environmental complexity is more important than mutation in driving the evolution of latent novel traits in E. coli. Nature Communications 13, 5904. [reprint request]

Toll-Riera, M., Olombrada, M., Castro-Giner, F., Wagner, A. (2022) A limit on the evolutionary rescue of an Antarctic bacterium from rising temperatures. Science Advances 8, eabk3511 [reprint request]

Zheng, J., Guo, N., Wagner, A. (2020) Strong selection enhances protein evolvability by increasing mutational robustness and foldability. Science 370, 6521 [reprint request]

Sprouffske, K., Aguilar-Rodriguez, J., Sniegowski, P., Wagner, A. (2018) High mutation rates limit evolutionary adaptation in Escherichia coli. PLoS Genetics 14, e1007324. [reprint request]

Schaerli, Y., Jimenez, A., Duarte, J.M., Mihajlovic, L., Renggli, J., Isalan, M., Sharpe, J., Wagner, A. (2018) Mechanistic causes of constrained phenotypic variation revealed by synthetic gene regulatory circuits. Molecular Systems Biology 14, e8102. [reprint request]

Bratulic, S., Toll-Riera, M., Wagner, A. (2017) Mistranslation benefits adaptive evolution through purging of deleterious mutations. Nature Communications 8, 15410. [reprint request]

Hayden, E., Bendixsen, D.P., Wagner, A. (2015) Intramolecular phenotypic capacitance in a modular RNA molecule. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, 12444-12449. [reprint request]

Bratulic, S., Gerber, F., Wagner, A. (2015) Mistranslation drives the evolution of robustness but not translational accuracy in TEM-1 beta-lactamase. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 , 12758-12763. [reprint request]

Dhar, R., Saegesser, R., Weikert, C., Wagner, A. (2013) Yeast adapts to a changing stressful environment by evolving cross-protection and anticipatory gene regulation. Molecular Biology and Evolution 30, 573-588. [reprint request]

Hayden, E.J., Ferrada, E., Wagner, A. (2011) Cryptic genetic variation promotes rapid evolutionary adaptation in an RNA enzyme. Nature 474, 92-95. [reprint request]