PerspectiveGenetics

Tales from the crypt(ic)

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Science  26 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6451, pp. 318-319
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay2727

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Summary

Adaptation through natural selection requires inherited changes in an organism's phenotype. However, neutral or “cryptic” mutations—changes in genotype that do not affect phenotype—can influence adaptation outcomes, because genotype-to-phenotype mapping is inherently dependent on context. The phenotypic consequence of a mutation might change as a result of interactions either with other mutations in the genome (epistasis) or with the physical environment [a genotype-by-environment (G×E) interaction]. On page 347 of this issue, Zheng et al. (1) demonstrate that the accumulation of mutations that yield neutral changes in a protein promotes faster adaptation in an environment selecting for a new function, and that this effect requires the combined impact of epistasis and G×E interactions.

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