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Impact of epistasis and pleiotropy on evolutionary adaptation.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences
0962-8452
Publisher
The Royal Society
Publication Date
Volume
279
Issue
1727
Pages
247–256
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0870
PMID: 21697174
Source
Medline

Abstract

Evolutionary adaptation is often likened to climbing a hill or peak. While this process is simple for fitness landscapes where mutations are independent, the interaction between mutations (epistasis) as well as mutations at loci that affect more than one trait (pleiotropy) are crucial in complex and realistic fitness landscapes. We investigate the impact of epistasis and pleiotropy on adaptive evolution by studying the evolution of a population of asexual haploid organisms (haplotypes) in a model of N interacting loci, where each locus interacts with K other loci. We use a quantitative measure of the magnitude of epistatic interactions between substitutions, and find that it is an increasing function of K. When haplotypes adapt at high mutation rates, more epistatic pairs of substitutions are observed on the line of descent than expected. The highest fitness is attained in landscapes with an intermediate amount of ruggedness that balance the higher fitness potential of interacting genes with their concomitant decreased evolvability. Our findings imply that the synergism between loci that interact epistatically is crucial for evolving genetic modules with high fitness, while too much ruggedness stalls the adaptive process.

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