Antibiotic resistance and stress in the light of Fisher's model

Evolution. 2012 Dec;66(12):3815-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01722.x. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


The role of mutations in evolution depends upon the distribution of their effects on fitness. This distribution is likely to depend on the environment. Indeed genotype-by-environment interactions are key for the process of local adaptation and ecological specialization. An important trait in bacterial evolution is antibiotic resistance, which presents a clear case of change in the direction of selection between environments with and without antibiotics. Here, we study the distribution of fitness effects of mutations, conferring antibiotic resistance to Escherichia coli, in benign and stressful environments without drugs. We interpret the distributions in the light of a fitness landscape model that assumes a single fitness peak. We find that mutation effects (s) are well described by a shifted gamma distribution, with a shift parameter that reflects the distance to the fitness peak and varies across environments. Consistent with the theoretical predictions of Fisher's geometrical model, with a Gaussian relationship between phenotype and fitness, we find that the main effect of stress is to increase the variance in s. Our findings are in agreement with the results of a recent meta-analysis, which suggest that a simple fitness landscape model may capture the variation of mutation effects across species and environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Environment
  • Escherichia coli
  • Genotype
  • Mutation*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Stress, Physiological*