Local fitness landscapes predict yeast evolutionary dynamics in directionally changing environments

Florien A. Gorter*, Mark G.M. Aarts, Bas J. Zwaan, J.A.G.M. de Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The fitness landscape is a concept that is widely used for understanding and predicting evolutionary adaptation. The topography of the fitness landscape depends critically on the environment, with potentially far-reaching consequences for evolution under changing conditions. However, few studies have assessed directly how empirical fitness landscapes change across conditions, or validated the predicted consequences of such change. We previously evolved replicate yeast populations in the presence of either gradually increasing, or constant high, concentrations of the heavy metals cadmium (Cd), nickel (Ni), and zinc (Zn), and analyzed their phenotypic and genomic changes. Here, we reconstructed the local fitness landscapes underlying adaptation to each metal by deleting all repeatedly mutated genes both by themselves and in combination. Fitness assays revealed that the height, and/or shape, of each local fitness landscape changed considerably across metal concentrations, with distinct qualitative differences between unconditionally (Cd) and conditionally toxic metals (Ni and Zn). This change in topography had particularly crucial consequences in the case of Ni, where a substantial part of the individual mutational fitness effects changed in sign across concentrations. Based on the Ni landscape analyses, we made several predictions about which mutations had been selected when during the evolution experiment. Deep sequencing of population samples from different time points generally confirmed these predictions, demonstrating the power of landscape reconstruction analyses for understanding and ultimately predicting evolutionary dynamics, even under complex scenarios of environmental change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-322
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Experimental evolution
  • Fitness landscapes
  • Genotype-environment interaction
  • Predicting evolution
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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