The genetic basis of thermal reaction norm evolution in lab and natural phage populations

  • Knies J
  • Izem R
  • Supler K
 et al. 
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Two major goals of laboratory evolution experiments are to integrate from genotype to phenotype to fitness, and to understand the genetic basis of adaptation in natural populations. Here we demonstrate that both goals are possible by re-examining the outcome of a previous laboratory evolution experiment in which the bacteriophage G4 was adapted to high temperatures. We quantified the evolutionary changes in the thermal reaction norms—the curves that describe the effect of temperature on the growth rate of the phages—and decomposed the changes into modes of biological interest. Our analysis indicated that changes in optimal temperature accounted for almost half of the evolutionary changes in thermal reaction norm shape, and made the largest contribution toward adaptation at high temperatures. Genome sequencing allowed us to associate reaction norm shape changes with particular nucleotide mutations, and several of the identified mutations were found to be polymorphic in natural populations. Growth rate measures of natural phage that differed at a site that contributed substantially to adaptation in the lab indicated that this mutation also underlies thermal reaction norm shape variation in nature. In combination, our results suggest that laboratory evolution experiments may successfully predict the genetic bases of evolutionary responses to temperature in nature. The implications of this work for viral evolution arise from the fact that shifts in the thermal optimum are characterized by tradeoffs in performance between high and low temperatures. Optimum shifts, if characteristic of viral adaptation to novel temperatures, would ensure the success of vaccine development strategies that adapt viruses to low temperatures in an attempt to reduce virulence at higher (body) temperatures

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  • Christina BurchUniversity of North Carolina

  • Jennifer L. Knies

  • Rima Izem

  • Katie L. Supler

  • Joel G. Kingsolver

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