Eight bacteriophages were adapted for rapid growth under similar conditions to compare their evolved, endpoint fitnesses. Four pairs of related phages were used, including two RNA phages with small genomes (MS2 and Qβ), two single-stranded DNA phages with small genomes (ϕX174 and G4), two T-odd phages with medium-sized, double-stranded DNA genomes (T7 and T3), and two T-even phages with large, double-stranded DNA genomes (T6 and RB69). Fitness was measured as absolute growth rate per hour under the same conditions used for adaptation. T7 and T3 achieved the highest fitnesses, able to increase by 13 billionfold and three-quarters billionfold per hour, respectively. In contrast, the RNA phages achieved low fitness maxima, with growth rates approximately 400-fold and 4000-fold per hour. The highest fitness limits were not attributable to high mutation rates or small genome size, even though both traits are expected to enhance adaptation for fast growth. We suggest that major differences in fitness limits stem from different “global” constraints, determined by the organization and composition of the phage genome affecting whether and how it overcomes potentially rate-limiting host processes, such as transcription, translation, and replication. Adsorption rates were also measured on the evolved phages. No consistent pattern of adsorption rate and fitness was observed across the four different types of phages, but within each pair of related phages, higher adsorption was associated with higher fitness. Different adsorption rate limits within pairs may stem from “local” constraints—sequence differences leading to different local optima in the sequence space.
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Vol. 58 • No. 4