Genotype-Environment Interactions and the Estimation of the Genomic Mutation Rate in Drosophila melanogaster

Alexey S. Kondrashov, David Houle


We have studied the relative fitnesses of three genotypes of Drosophila melanogaster in 50 environments. Two genotypes, the MA lines, had accumulated mutations in the absence of natural selection over 62 generations. The third was a related strain where selection had continued to act. The environments differed in three factors: parental density, dilution of the medium, and the temperature regime and medium composition. Our measure of fitness assessed fecundity and viability relative to a reference genotype. Both MA lines always had lower fitnesses than the selected line, but the difference increased dramatically with dilution of the medium and, especially, crowding. Under the most severe conditions, the performance of the MA lines approached 0. This increased difference in harsh conditions may be caused both by a uniform increase in the magnitude of deleterious effects of all mutations and by the exposure of mutations which are essentially neutral under benign conditions. If the second cause is important, previous experiments are likely to have underestimated the genomic deleterious mutation rate in Drosophila melanogaster more than previously thought.