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Genetics. 2017 Apr;205(4):1459-1471. doi: 10.1534/genetics.116.199513. Epub 2017 Feb 13.

Mismatch Repair Incompatibilities in Diverse Yeast Populations.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2703.
Université de Strasbourg, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Génétique Moléculaire, Génomique, Microbiologie, Unité Mixte de Recherche, 7156, F-67000 Strasbourg, France.
Institute for Research on Cancer and Ageing of Nice, 06107 Nice, France.
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2703


An elevated mutation rate can provide cells with a source of mutations to adapt to changing environments. We identified a negative epistatic interaction involving naturally occurring variants in the MLH1 and PMS1 mismatch repair (MMR) genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae We hypothesized that this MMR incompatibility, created through mating between divergent S. cerevisiae, yields mutator progeny that can rapidly but transiently adapt to an environmental stress. Here we analyzed the MLH1 and PMS1 genes across 1010 S. cerevisiae natural isolates spanning a wide range of ecological sources (tree exudates, Drosophila, fruits, and various fermentation and clinical isolates) and geographical sources (Europe, America, Africa, and Asia). We identified one homozygous clinical isolate and 18 heterozygous isolates containing the incompatible MMR genotype. The MLH1-PMS1 gene combination isolated from the homozygous clinical isolate conferred a mutator phenotype when expressed in the S288c laboratory background. Using a novel reporter to measure mutation rates, we showed that the overall mutation rate in the homozygous incompatible background was similar to that seen in compatible strains, indicating the presence of suppressor mutations in the clinical isolate that lowered its mutation rate. This observation and the identification of 18 heterozygous isolates, which can lead to MMR incompatible genotypes in the offspring, are consistent with an elevated mutation rate rapidly but transiently facilitating adaptation. To avoid long-term fitness costs, the incompatibility is apparently buffered by mating or by acquiring suppressors. These observations highlight effective strategies in eukaryotes to avoid long-term fitness costs associated with elevated mutation rates.


DNA mismatch repair; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; adaptation; experimental evolution; genetic incompatibility; mutator phenotype; natural yeast isolates

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