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Genetics. 2009 Apr;181(4):1535-44. doi: 10.1534/genetics.107.085837. Epub 2009 Feb 2.

Genomewide patterns of substitution in adaptively evolving populations of the RNA bacteriophage MS2.

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Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


Experimental evolution of bacteriophage provides a powerful means of studying the genetics of adaptation, as every substitution contributing to adaptation can be identified and characterized. Here, I use experimental evolution of MS2, an RNA bacteriophage, to study its adaptive response to a novel environment. To this end, three lines of MS2 were adapted to rapid growth and lysis at cold temperature for a minimum of 50 phage generations and subjected to whole-genome sequencing. Using this system, I identified adaptive substitutions, monitored changes in frequency of adaptive mutations through the course of the experiment, and measured the effect on phage growth rate of each substitution. All three lines showed a substantial increase in fitness (a two- to threefold increase in growth rate) due to a modest number of substitutions (three to four). The data show some evidence that the substitutions occurring early in the experiment have larger beneficial effects than later ones, in accordance with the expected diminishing returns relationship between the fitness effects of a mutation and its order of substitution. Patterns of molecular evolution seen here--primarily a paucity of hitchhiking mutations--suggest an abundant supply of beneficial mutations in this system. Nevertheless, some beneficial mutations appear to have been lost, possibly due to accumulation of beneficial mutations on other genetic backgrounds, clonal interference, and negatively epistatic interactions with other beneficial mutations.

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