Mutational Biases Influence Parallel Adaptation

Mol Biol Evol. 2017 Sep 1;34(9):2163-2172. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msx180.


While mutational biases strongly influence neutral molecular evolution, the role of mutational biases in shaping the course of adaptation is less clear. Here we consider the frequency of transitions relative to transversions among adaptive substitutions. Because mutation rates for transitions are higher than those for transversions, if mutational biases influence the dynamics of adaptation, then transitions should be overrepresented among documented adaptive substitutions. To test this hypothesis, we assembled two sets of data on putatively adaptive amino acid replacements that have occurred in parallel during evolution, either in nature or in the laboratory. We find that the frequency of transitions in these data sets is much higher than would be predicted under a null model where mutation has no effect. Our results are qualitatively similar even if we restrict ourself to changes that have occurred, not merely twice, but three or more times. These results suggest that the course of adaptation is biased by mutation.

Keywords: experimental evolution; mutation-biased adaptation; parallelism; transition-transversion bias.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Bias
  • Biological Evolution
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Mutation Rate
  • Phylogeny
  • Point Mutation / genetics
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid