Fitness variation across subtle environmental perturbations reveals local modularity and global pleiotropy of adaptation

Kinsler G*, Geiler-Samerotte K*, Petrov D, eLife (2020).
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Building a genotype-phenotype-fitness map of adaptation is a central goal in evolutionary biology. It is notoriously difficult even when the adaptive mutations are known because it is hard to enumerate which phenotypes make these mutations adaptive. We address this problem by first quantifying how the fitness of hundreds of adaptive yeast mutants responds to subtle environmental shifts and then modeling the number of phenotypes they must collectively influence by decomposing these patterns of fitness variation. We find that a small number of phenotypes predicts fitness of the adaptive mutations near their original glucose-limited evolution condition. Importantly, phenotypes that matter little to fitness at or near the evolution condition can matter strongly in distant environments. This suggests that adaptive mutations are locally modular—affecting a small number of phenotypes that matter to fitness in the environment where they evolved—yet globally pleiotropic—affecting additional phenotypes that may reduce or improve fitness in new environments.