Changing fitness effects of mutations through long-term bacterial evolution

Science. 2024 Jan 26;383(6681):eadd1417. doi: 10.1126/science.add1417. Epub 2024 Jan 26.


The distribution of fitness effects of new mutations shapes evolution, but it is challenging to observe how it changes as organisms adapt. Using Escherichia coli lineages spanning 50,000 generations of evolution, we quantify the fitness effects of insertion mutations in every gene. Macroscopically, the fraction of deleterious mutations changed little over time whereas the beneficial tail declined sharply, approaching an exponential distribution. Microscopically, changes in individual gene essentiality and deleterious effects often occurred in parallel; altered essentiality is only partly explained by structural variation. The identity and effect sizes of beneficial mutations changed rapidly over time, but many targets of selection remained predictable because of the importance of loss-of-function mutations. Taken together, these results reveal the dynamic-but statistically predictable-nature of mutational fitness effects.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Escherichia coli* / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Fitness*
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Mutation
  • Selection, Genetic