Published In

Genome Biology and Evolution

Document Type


Publication Date



Caenorhabditis elegans, Mitochondrial DNA, Mutation (Biology)


A mutation-accumulation (MA) experiment with Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes was conducted in which replicate, independently evolving lines were initiated from a low-fitness mitochondrial electron transport chain mutant, gas-1. The original intent of the study was to assess the effect of electron transport chain dysfunction involving elevated reactive oxygen species production on patterns of spontaneous germline mutation. In contrast to results of standard MA experiments, gas-1 MA lines evolved slightly higher mean fitness alongside reduced among-line genetic variance compared with their ancestor. Likewise, the gas-1 MA lines experienced partial recovery to wildtype reactive oxygen species levels. Whole-genome sequencing and analysis revealed that the molecular spectrum but not the overall rate of nuclearDNAmutation differed from wildtype patterns. Further analysis revealed an enrichment of mutations in loci that occur in a gas-1-centric region of the C. elegans interactome, and could be classified into a small number of functional-genomic categories. Characterization of a backcrossed four-mutation set isolated from one gas-1 MA line revealed this combination to be beneficial on both gas-1 mutant and wildtype genetic backgrounds. Our combined results suggest that selection favoring beneficial mutations can be powerful even under unfavorable population genetic conditions, and agree with fitness landscape theory predicting an inverse relationship between population fitness and the likelihood of adaptation.


© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



Persistent Identifier

Included in

Biology Commons