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Environmental change exposes beneficial epistatic interactions in a catalytic RNA


Hayden, Eric; Wagner, Andreas (2012). Environmental change exposes beneficial epistatic interactions in a catalytic RNA. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 279(1742):3418-3425.

Abstract

Natural selection drives populations of individuals towards local peaks in a fitness landscape. These peaks are created by the interactions between individual mutations. Fitness landscapes may change as an environment changes. In a previous contribution, we discovered a variant of the Azoarcus group I ribozyme that represents a local peak in the RNA fitness landscape. The genotype at this peak is distinguished from the wild-type by four point mutations. We here report ribozyme fitness data derived from constructing all possible combinations of these point mutations. We find that these mutations interact epistatically. Importantly, we show that these epistatic interactions change qualitatively in the three different environments that we studied. We find examples where the relative fitness of a ribozyme can change from neutral or negative in one environment, to positive in another. We also show that the fitness effect of a specific GC–AU base pair switch is dependent on both the environment and the genetic context. Moreover, the mutations that we study improve activity at the cost of decreased structural stability. Environmental change is ubiquitous in nature. Our results suggest that such change can facilitate adaptive evolution by exposing new peaks of a fitness landscape. They highlight a prominent role for genotype–environment interactions in doing so.

Abstract

Natural selection drives populations of individuals towards local peaks in a fitness landscape. These peaks are created by the interactions between individual mutations. Fitness landscapes may change as an environment changes. In a previous contribution, we discovered a variant of the Azoarcus group I ribozyme that represents a local peak in the RNA fitness landscape. The genotype at this peak is distinguished from the wild-type by four point mutations. We here report ribozyme fitness data derived from constructing all possible combinations of these point mutations. We find that these mutations interact epistatically. Importantly, we show that these epistatic interactions change qualitatively in the three different environments that we studied. We find examples where the relative fitness of a ribozyme can change from neutral or negative in one environment, to positive in another. We also show that the fitness effect of a specific GC–AU base pair switch is dependent on both the environment and the genetic context. Moreover, the mutations that we study improve activity at the cost of decreased structural stability. Environmental change is ubiquitous in nature. Our results suggest that such change can facilitate adaptive evolution by exposing new peaks of a fitness landscape. They highlight a prominent role for genotype–environment interactions in doing so.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:20 June 2012
Deposited On:11 Feb 2013 12:01
Last Modified:26 Jan 2017 08:53
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8452
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.0956
PubMed ID:22719036

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