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Ecology and Evolution of Microbial Populations


Ecology and Evolution of Microbial Populations

Karina B. Xavier
Isabel Gordo

Emphasize the importance of microbial populations as targets of evolution and capacitate the students to recognize evolutionary processes acting upon microbial populations and communities. Discuss the consequences of this type of selective pressure for the entire biome, including interactions with humans.  Students will become familiarized with the processes and molecular mechanisms involved in microbial communication and microbial cooperation and the implication of these processes in the assembly and maintenance of multispecies communities such as the microbiota. Emphasize will be given to the importance of the mechanisms of emergence and maintenance of antibiotic resistance.


  1. An introduction to Microbial Evolution in ecosystems.
  2. Microbial population genomics, and experimental evolution, an analysis and discussion of case studies.
  3. Evolutionary Mechanisms of Antimicrobial Resistance.
  4. Molecular mechanisms involved in bacterial sensing and chemical communication.
  5. Microbial group behaviors: cooperation and competition within microbial communities.
  6. The gut microbiota and its interaction with the host – modulation of the immune system; protection to infection and inflammation; influencing animal behavior.

During the student attendance of the lectures, their critical thinking will be evaluated. The afternoons will be dedicated to the group activities which will feature mainly presentations and discussions by the student, of the most exciting and up to date research publications related to the topics taught. These presentations will be performed by the student while stimulated and guided by the teachers. Emphasis will be given to discussions of the rationale, limitations, and integration with state of the art of each research article. In the beginning of the week the teachers will provide material on how to achieve proficiency in presentation of scientific work. The students will be evaluated for the quality of their interventions, participation in the discussions, and their presentations.

Main Bibliography

  1. Sousa A, Frazão N, Ramiro RS, Gordo I. 2017 Evolution of commensal bacteria in the intestinal tract of mice.Curr Opin Microbiol. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2017.05.007.
  2. Lenski 2017 “Experimental evolution and the dynamics of adaptation and genome evolution in microbial populations.” ISME doi: 10.1038/ismej.2017.69.
  3. Durão P, Balbontín R, Gordo I. 2018 “Evolutionary Mechanisms Shaping the Maintenance of Antibiotic Resistance.” Trends Microbiol. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2018.01.005.
  4. Keller L, Surette MG. 2006. Communication in bacteria: an ecological and evolutionary perspective. Nat Rev Microbiol. 4:249-58.
  5. Mukherjee S, Bassler BL. 2019. Bacterial quorum sensing in complex and dynamically changing environments. Nat Rev Microbiol. 17(6):371-382. doi: 10.1038/s41579-019-0186-5.
  6. Ubeda C, Djukovic A, Isaac S. 2017. Roles of the intestinal microbiota in pathogen protection. Clin Transl Immunology. 6(2):e128. doi: 10.1038/cti.2017.2.
  7. Littman DR, Pamer EG. 2011. Role of the commensal microbiota in normal and pathogenic host immune responses. Cell Host Microbe. 10:311-23.
  8. Foster KR, Schluter J, Coyte KZ, Rakoff-Nahoum S. 2017. Nature. 548(7665):43-51. doi: 10.1038/nature23292



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