Population genetics in microchannels

Anzhelika Koldaeva, Hsieh Fu Tsai, Amy Q. Shen, Simone Pigolotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Spatial constraints, such as rigid barriers, affect the dynamics of cell populations, potentially altering the course of natural evolution. In this paper, we investigate the population genetics of Escherichia coli proliferating in microchannels with open ends. Our analysis is based on a population model, in which reproducing cells shift entire lanes of cells toward the open ends of the channel. The model predicts that diversity is lost very rapidly within lanes but at a much slower pace among lanes. As a consequence, two mixed, neutral E. coli strains competing in a microchannel must organize into an ordered regular stripe pattern in the course of a few generations. These predictions are in quantitative agreement with our experiments. We also demonstrate that random mutations appearing in the middle of the channel are much more likely to reach fixation than those occurring elsewhere. Our results illustrate fundamental mechanisms of microbial evolution in spatially confined space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2120821119
Pages (from-to)e2120821119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 22 2022


  • Bacterial evolution
  • Individual-based models
  • Microfluidics
  • Spatial population dynamics
  • Genetics, Population
  • Soil
  • Escherichia coli/genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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