Pleiotropy Modulates the Efficacy of Selection in Drosophila melanogaster

Mol Biol Evol. 2019 Mar 1;36(3):500-515. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msy246.


Pleiotropy is the well-established idea that a single mutation affects multiple phenotypes. If a mutation has opposite effects on fitness when expressed in different contexts, then genetic conflict arises. Pleiotropic conflict is expected to reduce the efficacy of selection by limiting the fixation of beneficial mutations through adaptation, and the removal of deleterious mutations through purifying selection. Although this has been widely discussed, in particular in the context of a putative "gender load," it has yet to be systematically quantified. In this work, we empirically estimate to which extent different pleiotropic regimes impede the efficacy of selection in Drosophila melanogaster. We use whole-genome polymorphism data from a single African population and divergence data from D. simulans to estimate the fraction of adaptive fixations (α), the rate of adaptation (ωA), and the direction of selection (DoS). After controlling for confounding covariates, we find that the different pleiotropic regimes have a relatively small, but significant, effect on selection efficacy. Specifically, our results suggest that pleiotropic sexual antagonism may restrict the efficacy of selection, but that this conflict can be resolved by limiting the expression of genes to the sex where they are beneficial. Intermediate levels of pleiotropy across tissues and life stages can also lead to maladaptation in D. melanogaster, due to inefficient purifying selection combined with low frequency of mutations that confer a selective advantage. Thus, our study highlights the need to consider the efficacy of selection in the context of antagonistic pleiotropy, and of genetic conflict in general.

Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; (mal)adaptation; evo-devo; gene expression; pleiotropy; selective constraint.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genetic Pleiotropy*
  • Male
  • Selection, Genetic*