TitleLarge-Effect Beneficial Synonymous Mutations Mediate Rapid and Parallel Adaptation in a Bacterium.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsAgashe D, Sane M, Phalnikar K, Diwan GD, Habibullah A, Martinez-Gomez NCecilia, Sahasrabuddhe V, Polachek W, Wang J, Chubiz LM, Marx CJ
JournalMol Biol Evol
Date Published2016 Feb 23

Contrary to previous understanding, recent evidence indicates that synonymous codon changes may sometimes face strong selection. However, it remains difficult to generalize the nature, strength, and mechanism(s) of such selection. Previously, we showed that synonymous variants of a key enzyme-coding gene (fae) of Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 decreased enzyme production and reduced fitness dramatically. We now show that during laboratory evolution, these variants rapidly regained fitness via parallel yet variant-specific, highly beneficial point mutations in the N-terminal region of fae. These mutations (including four synonymous mutations) had weak but consistently positive impacts on transcript levels, enzyme production, or enzyme activity. However, none of the proposed mechanisms (including internal ribosome pause sites or mRNA structure) predicted the fitness impact of evolved or additional, engineered point mutations. This study shows that synonymous mutations can be fixed through strong positive selection, but the mechanism for their benefit varies depending on the local sequence context.

Alternate JournalMol. Biol. Evol.
PubMed ID26908584