Epistasis Blog

From the Computational Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania (www.epistasis.org)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Epistasis and Genomic Complexity

This looks like a very interesting new paper. What do you think?

Sanjuán R, Nebot MR. A network model for the correlation between epistasis and genomic complexity. PLoS ONE. 2008 Jul 16;3(7):e2663. [PLoS One]

The study of genetic interactions (epistasis) is central to the understanding of genome organization and evolution. A general correlation between epistasis and genomic complexity has been recently shown, such that in simpler genomes epistasis is antagonistic on average (mutational effects tend to cancel each other out), whereas a transition towards synergistic epistasis occurs in more complex genomes (mutational effects strengthen each other). Here, we use a simple network model to identify basic features explaining this correlation. We show that, in small networks with multifunctional nodes, lack of redundancy, and absence of alternative pathways, epistasis is antagonistic on average. In contrast, lack of multi-functionality, high connectivity, and redundancy favor synergistic epistasis. Moreover, we confirm the previous finding that epistasis is a covariate of mutational robustness: in less robust networks it tends to be antagonistic whereas in more robust networks it tends to be synergistic. We argue that network features associated with antagonistic epistasis are typically found in simple genomes, such as those of viruses and bacteria, whereas the features associated with synergistic epistasis are more extensively exploited by higher eukaryotes.

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