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Genetics. Jul 1977; 86(3): 607–621.
PMCID: PMC1213698

The Evolution of Epistasis and the Advantage of Recombination in Populations of Bacteriophage T4

Abstract

Experiments reported here test two hypotheses about the evolution of recombination: first, the Fisher-Muller concept that sexual organisms respond to selection more rapidly than do asexual ones, and second, that epistasis is more likely to evolve in the absence of recombination. Populations of bacteriophage T4 were selected by the drug proflavine in discrete generations and the change in mean population fitness was monitored. Three separate selection series yielded results supporting the Fisher-Muller hypothesis. The amount of epistasis evolved was measured by partitioning the T4 map into regions and comparing the sum of the proflavine resistances of each region with the resistance of the whole. Significantly more interactions were found in phage isolated from the populations with lower total recombination than in those from populations with higher recombination. The degree to which these experiments fit preconceived notions about natural selection suggests that microorganisms may be advantageously used in other population genetics experiments.

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