How does adaptation sweep through the genome? Insights from long-term selection experiments

Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Dec 22;279(1749):5029-38. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0799. Epub 2012 Jul 25.


A major goal in evolutionary biology is to understand the origins and fates of adaptive mutations. Natural selection may act to increase the frequency of de novo beneficial mutations, or those already present in the population as standing genetic variation. These beneficial mutations may ultimately reach fixation in a population, or they may stop increasing in frequency once a particular phenotypic state has been achieved. It is not yet well understood how different features of population biology, and/or different environmental circumstances affect these adaptive processes. Experimental evolution is a promising technique for studying the dynamics of beneficial alleles, as populations evolving in the laboratory experience natural selection in a replicated, controlled manner. Whole-genome sequencing, regularly obtained over the course of sustained laboratory selection, could potentially reveal insights into the mutational dynamics that most likely occur in natural populations under similar circumstances. To date, only a few evolution experiments for which whole-genome data are available exist. This review describes results from these resequenced laboratory-selected populations, in systems with and without sexual recombination. In asexual systems, adaptation from new mutations can be studied, and results to date suggest that the complete, unimpeded fixation of these mutations is not always observed. In sexual systems, adaptation from standing genetic variation can be studied, and in the admittedly few examples we have, the complete fixation of standing variants is not always observed. To date, the relative frequency of adaptation from new mutations versus standing variation has not been tested using a single experimental system, but recent studies using Caenorhabditis elegans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae suggest that this a realistic future goal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genome, Fungal
  • Genome, Insect
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Mutation
  • Reproduction
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic*