Advances in DNA sequencing, high-throughput technologies, and genetic manipulation systems have enabled empirical studies of the molecular and genomic bases of adaptive evolution. This review discusses key insights learned from direct observation of the evolution process.
Laboratory evolution studies provide fundamental biological insight through direct observation of the evolution process. They not only enable testing of evolutionary theory and principles, but also have applications to metabolic engineering and human health. Genome-scale tools are revolutionizing studies of laboratory evolution by providing complete determination of the genetic basis of adaptation and the changes in the organism's gene expression state. Here, we review studies centered on four central themes of laboratory evolution studies: (1) the genetic basis of adaptation; (2) the importance of mutations to genes that encode regulatory hubs; (3) the view of adaptive evolution as an optimization process; and (4) the dynamics with which laboratory populations evolve.