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Genetics. 2005 Apr;169(4):1825-31. Epub 2005 Mar 2.

The number of mutations selected during adaptation in a laboratory population of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27109, USA.


There is currently limited empirical and theoretical support for the prevailing view that adaptation typically results from the fixation of many mutations, each with small phenotypic effects. Recent theoretical work suggests that, on the contrary, most of the phenotypic change during an episode of adaptation can result from the selection of a few mutations with relatively large effects. I studied the genetics of adaptation by populations of budding yeast to a culture regime of daily hundredfold dilution and transfer in a glucose-limited minimal liquid medium. A single haploid genotype isolated after 2000 generations showed a 76% fitness increase over its ancestor. This evolved haploid was crossed with its ancestor, and tetrad dissections were used to isolate a complete series of six meiotic tetrads. The Castle-Wright estimator of the number of loci at which adaptive mutations had been selected, modified to account for linkage and variation among mutations in the size of their effect, is 4.4. The estimate for a second haploid genotype, isolated from a separate population and with a fitness gain of 60%, was 2.7 loci. Backcrosses to the ancestor with the first evolved genotype support the inference that adaptation resulted primarily from two to five mutations. These backcrosses also indicated that deleterious mutations had hitchhiked with adaptive mutations in this evolved genotype.

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