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J Theor Biol. 2013 Jan 21;317:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2012.09.028. Epub 2012 Oct 2.

The peaks and geometry of fitness landscapes.

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University of California at Merced, 5200 Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343, USA.


Fitness landscapes are central in the theory of adaptation. Recent work compares global and local properties of fitness landscapes. It has been shown that multi-peaked fitness landscapes have a local property called reciprocal sign epistasis interactions. The converse is not true. We show that no condition phrased in terms of reciprocal sign epistasis interactions only, implies multiple peaks. We give a sufficient condition for multiple peaks phrased in terms of two-way interactions. This result is surprising since it has been claimed that no sufficient local condition for multiple peaks exist. We show that our result cannot be generalized to sufficient conditions for three or more peaks. Our proof depends on fitness graphs, where nodes represent genotypes and where arrows point toward more fit genotypes. We also use fitness graphs in order to give a new brief proof of the equivalent characterizations of fitness landscapes lacking genetic constraints on accessible mutational trajectories. We compare a recent geometric classification of fitness landscape based on triangulations of polytopes with qualitative aspects of gene interactions. One observation is that fitness graphs provide information that are not contained in the geometric classification. We argue that a qualitative perspective may help relating theory of fitness landscapes and empirical observations.

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