Science: Who decides the pros and cons of mutation

A new study from the University of Nebraska found that whether a particular mutation is good or bad is usually determined by other mutations associated with it. The results show that the genetic environment is the most important factor in determining whether mutations are beneficial to their evolutionary destiny. These findings were published online in the journal Science on June 14. According to traditional biological viewpoints, the evolutionary fate of new mutations depends on whether they affect reproductive success, whether they are good, bad, or unrelated, which is an important principle of evolutionary biology. The core of this view is: "good" mutations are always good, which can promote successful breeding; and "bad" mutations are always bad, and will soon be eliminated from the gene pool.

However, a new study led by Jay Storz, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Nebraska, found that whether a particular gene is good or bad is often determined by other mutations associated with it. In other words, genetic evolution depends on the genetic environment. In this new Science paper, Storz and colleagues report that when a mutation is combined with certain mutations, it may be beneficial, and when the same mutation occurs in other combinations, it may be harmful to the organism. .

In the new study, the researchers studied some mutations that changed the function of hemoglobin. Physiologists have long known that many high-altitude animals have evolved hemoglobin with high oxygen affinity, which can increase oxygen intake in thin air. The Storz research team found in an earlier study of high- and low-altitude North American deer rodents that high-altitude deer rodents have evolved hemoglobin with increased oxygen affinity. . The researchers used a protein engineering technique to synthesize hemoglobin containing every naturally occurring mutation with all possible combinations of multiple sites.

"By examining the oxygen-binding properties of these engineered hemoglobins, we found that the same single mutation increased oxygen affinity in some combinations and decreased oxygen affinity in others. Their effects depend entirely on the genetic environment," Storz said . "An important revelation we have obtained is that if there is an interaction between mutations, some evolutionary mutation signaling pathways may be easier to use than others. The key to the evolutionary fate of a new mutation depends on what other mutations already exist. The order in which mutations occur determines that evolution is more likely to follow certain signaling pathways, because some interactions may be negative, while others may be positive. The type of these interaction effects determines which Mutant signaling pathways are open and used for evolution.

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