Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 535–547 | Cite as

Resistance to glyphosate in the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa as result of pre-selective mutations

  • Victoria López-Rodas
  • Antonio Flores-MoyaEmail author
  • Emilia Maneiro
  • Nieves Perdigones
  • Fernando Marva
  • Marta E. García
  • Eduardo Costas


Adaptation of Microcystis aeruginosa (Cyanobacteria) to resist the herbicide glyphosate was analysed by using an experimental model. Growth of wild-type, glyphosate-sensitive (Gs) cells was inhibited when they were cultured with 120 ppm glyphosate, but after further incubation for several weeks, occasionally the growth of rare cells resistant (Gr) to the herbicide was found. A fluctuation analysis was carried out to distinguish between resistant cells arising from rare spontaneous mutations and resistant cells arising from other mechanisms of adaptation. Resistant cells arose by rare spontaneous mutations prior to the addition of glyphosate, with a rate ranging from 3.1 × 10−7 to 3.6 × 10−7 mutants per cell per generation in two strains of M. aeruginosa; the frequency of the Gr allele ranged from 6.14 × 10−4 to 6.54 × 10−4. The Gr mutants are slightly elliptical in outline, whereas the Gs cells are spherical. Since Gr mutants have a diminished growth rate, they may be maintained in uncontaminated waters as the result of a balance between new resistants arising from spontaneous mutation and resistants eliminated by natural selection. Thus, rare spontaneous pre-selective mutations may allow the survival of M. aeruginosa in glyphosate-polluted waters via Gr clone selection.


Cell morphology Glyphosate Microcystis Mutation rate Natural selection 

Abbreviations and symbols


Coefficient of form


Glyphosate-resistant cells


Glyphosate-sensitive cells

\( m_{{\text{G}}^{\text{r}} } \)

Malthusian fitness parameter from glyphosate-resistant cells

\( m_{{\text{G}}^{\text{s}} } \)

Malthusian fitness parameter from glyphosate-sensitive cells


No. of cells at the start of the experiment


No. of cells at the end of the experiment


Proportion of cultures without Gr cells in the set 1 fluctuation analysis experiment


Frequency of Gr allele in natural, non-exposed to glyphosate populations


Coefficient of selection


Mutation rate



This work was financially supported by REN 2000-0771 HID, REN 2001-1211 HID, Parques Nacionales 093/2003, P05-RNM-00935 and DOÑANA-2005 grants. Dr. Eric C. Henry (Herbarium, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, USA) kindly revised the English style and usage.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria López-Rodas
    • 1
  • Antonio Flores-Moya
    • 2
    Email author
  • Emilia Maneiro
    • 1
  • Nieves Perdigones
    • 1
  • Fernando Marva
    • 1
  • Marta E. García
    • 3
  • Eduardo Costas
    • 1
  1. 1.Genética (Producción Animal), Facultad de VeterinariaUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain
  2. 2.Biología Vegetal (Botánica), Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de MálagaMálagaSpain
  3. 3.Sanidad Animal (Microbiología), Facultad de VeterinariaUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain

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