Deleterious mutation poses a serious threat to human health and the persistence of small populations. Although adaptive recovery from deleterious mutation has been well-characterized in prokaryotes, the evolutionary mechanisms by which multicellular eukaryotes recover from deleterious mutation remain unknown. We applied high-throughput DNA sequencing to characterize genomic divergence patterns associated with the adaptive recovery from deleterious mutation using a Caenorhabditis elegans recovery-line system. The C. elegans recovery lines were initiated from a low-fitness mutation-accumulation (MA) line progenitor and allowed to independently evolve in large populations (N ∼ 1000) for 60 generations. All lines rapidly regained levels of fitness similar to the wild-type (N2) MA line progenitor. Although there was a near-zero probability of a single mutation fixing due to genetic drift during the recovery experiment, we observed 28 fixed mutations. Cross-generational analysis showed that all mutations went from undetectable population-level frequencies to a fixed state in 10-20 generations. Many recovery-line mutations fixed at identical timepoints, suggesting that the mutations, if not beneficial, hitchhiked to fixation during selective sweep events observed in the recovery lines. No MA line mutation reversions were detected. Parallel mutation fixation was observed for two sites in two independent recovery lines. Analysis using a C. elegans interactome map revealed many predicted interactions between genes with recovery line-specific mutations and genes with previously accumulated MA line mutations. Our study suggests that recovery-line mutations identified in both coding and noncoding genomic regions might have beneficial effects associated with compensatory epistatic interactions.
2010. Vol. 20, no 12