Selection history and epistatic interactions impact dynamics of adaptation to novel environmental stresses

Mato Lagator*, Nick Colegrave, Paul Neve

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In rapidly changing environments, selection history may impact the dynamics of adaptation. Mutations selected in one environment may result in pleiotropic fitness trade-offs in subsequent novel environments, slowing the rates of adaptation. Epistatic interactions between mutations selected in sequential stressful environments may slow or accelerate subsequent rates of adaptation, depending on the nature of that interaction. We explored the dynamics of adaptation during sequential exposure to herbicides with different modes of action in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Evolution of resistance to two of the herbicides was largely independent of selection history. For carbetamide, previous adaptation to other herbicide modes of action positively impacted the likelihood of adaptation to this herbicide. Furthermore, while adaptation to all individual herbicides was associated with pleiotropic fitness costs in stress-free environments, we observed that accumulation of resistance mechanisms was accompanied by a reduction in overall fitness costs. We suggest that antagonistic epistasis may be a driving mechanism that enables populations to more readily adapt in novel environments. These findings highlight the potential for sequences of xenobiotics to facilitate the rapid evolution of multiple-drug and -pesticide resistance, as well as the potential for epistatic interactions between adaptive mutations to facilitate evolutionary rescue in rapidly changing environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20141679
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1794
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2014


  • Adaptation
  • Environmental change
  • Epistasis
  • Evolutionary rescue
  • Pleiotropy
  • Xenobiotics


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