Genetic Background Affects Epistatic Interactions Between Two Beneficial Mutations

Document Type



Biology (HMC)

Publication Date



The phenotypic effect of mutations can depend on their genetic background, a phenomenon known as epistasis. Many experimental studies have found that epistasis is pervasive, and some indicate that it may follow a general pattern dependent on the fitness effect of the interacting mutations. These studies have, however, typically examined the effect of interactions between a small number of focal mutations in a single genetic background. Here, we extend this approach by considering how the interaction between two beneficial mutations that were isolated from a population of laboratory evolved Escherichia coli changes when they are added to divergent natural isolate strains of E. coli. We find that interactions between the focal mutations and the different genetic backgrounds are common. Moreover, the pair-wise interaction between the focal mutations also depended on their genetic background, being more negative in backgrounds with higher absolute fitness. Together, our results indicate the presence of interactions between focal mutations, but also caution that these interactions depend quantitatively on the wider genetic background.

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© 2012 Yinhua Wang, Carolina Diaz Arenas, Daniel M. Stoebel, and Tim F. Cooper. Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.