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The contribution of new mutations to genotype-environment interaction for fitness in Drosophila melanogaster

, : The contribution of new mutations to genotype-environment interaction for fitness in Drosophila melanogaster. Evolution 50(6): 2316-2327

Many studies have documented the existence of genotype-environment interaction (GEI) for traits closely related to fitness in natural populations. A type of GEI that is commonly observed is changes in the fitness ranking of genetic groups (families, clones, or inbred lines) in different environments. We refer to such changes in ranking as crossing of reaction norms for fitness. A common interpretation of crossing of reaction norms for fitness is that selection favors different alleles in the different environments (i.e., that "trade-offs" exist). If this is the case, selection could maintain genetic variation, and even lead to reproductive isolation between subpopulations using different environments. Even if the same alleles are favored in every environment, however, deleterious mutations that vary in the magnitude of their effect depending on environment could cause reaction norms for fitness to cross. If deleterious mutations with environment-dependent effects are responsible for maintaining much of the variation leading to crossing of reaction norms for fitness in natural populations, it should be possible to observe crossing of reaction norms for fitness among otherwise genetically identical lines bearing newly arisen spontaneous mutations. We examined the contribution of new mutations to GEI for fitness in Drosophila melanogaster. Eighteen lines were derived from a common, highly inbred base stock, and maintained at a population size of 10 pairs for over 200 generations, to allow them to accumulate spontaneous mutations. Because of the small population size of the lines, selection against mildly deleterious mutations should have been relatively ineffective. The lines were tested for productivity (number of surviving adult progeny from a standard number of parents) in five different environmental treatments, comprising different food media, temperatures, and levels of competition. The lines showed highly significant GEI for productivity, owing largely to considerable changes in ranking in the different environments. We conclude that mutations that are deleterious on average, but whose quantitative effects depend on environment, could be responsible for maintaining much of the variation leading to crossing of reaction norms for fitness that has been observed in samples of D. melanogaster from the wild.

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Accession: 002980857

DOI: 10.2307/2410700

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