In Evolution, the Sum Is Less than Its Parts

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Science  03 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6034, pp. 1160-1161
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208072

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Propagating bacteria in a lab for thousands of generations may seem tedious, or even irrelevant, to most evolutionary biologists. Nonetheless, such experiments provide an opportunity to deduce quantitative principles of evolution and directly test them in controlled environments. Combined with modern sequencing technologies, as well as theory, recent microbial experiments have suggested a critical role for genetic interactions among mutations, called epistasis, in determining the pace of evolution. Two papers in this issue, by Khan et al. on page 1193 (1) and Chou et al. (2) on page 1190, present precise experimental measurements of these epistatic interactions.