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PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(10):e1002735. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002735. Epub 2012 Oct 25.

The effect of bacterial recombination on adaptation on fitness landscapes with limited peak accessibility.

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Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


There is ample empirical evidence revealing that fitness landscapes are often complex: the fitness effect of a newly arisen mutation can depend strongly on the allelic state at other loci. However, little is known about the effects of recombination on adaptation on such fitness landscapes. Here, we investigate how recombination influences the rate of adaptation on a special type of complex fitness landscapes. On these landscapes, the mutational trajectories from the least to the most fit genotype are interrupted by genotypes with low relative fitness. We study the dynamics of adapting populations on landscapes with different compositions and numbers of low fitness genotypes, with and without recombination. Our results of the deterministic model (assuming an infinite population size) show that recombination generally decelerates adaptation on these landscapes. However, in finite populations, this deceleration is outweighed by the accelerating Fisher-Muller effect under certain conditions. We conclude that recombination has complex effects on adaptation that are highly dependent on the particular fitness landscape, population size and recombination rate.

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