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Negative Epistasis Between Beneficial Mutations in an Evolving Bacterial Population

Science  03 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6034, pp. 1193-1196
DOI: 10.1126/science.1203801

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Abstract

Epistatic interactions between mutations play a prominent role in evolutionary theories. Many studies have found that epistasis is widespread, but they have rarely considered beneficial mutations. We analyzed the effects of epistasis on fitness for the first five mutations to fix in an experimental population of Escherichia coli. Epistasis depended on the effects of the combined mutations—the larger the expected benefit, the more negative the epistatic effect. Epistasis thus tended to produce diminishing returns with genotype fitness, although interactions involving one particular mutation had the opposite effect. These data support models in which negative epistasis contributes to declining rates of adaptation over time. Sign epistasis was rare in this genome-wide study, in contrast to its prevalence in an earlier study of mutations in a single gene.

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