The fitness challenge of studying molecular adaptation

David Coombes, James Moir, Anthony M. Poole, Tim F. Cooper, Renwick C.J. Dobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Advances in bioinformatics and high-throughput genetic analysis increasingly allow us to predict the genetic basis of adaptive traits. These predictions can be tested and confirmed, but the molecular-level changes—i.e. the molecular adaptation—that link genetic differences to organism fitness remain generally unknown. In recent years, a series of studies have started to unpick the mechanisms of adaptation at the molecular level. In particular, this work has examined how changes in protein function, activity, and regulation cause improved organismal fitness. Key to addressing molecular adaptations is identifying systems and designing experiments that integrate changes in the genome, protein chemistry (molecular phenotype), and fitness. Knowledge of the molecular changes underpinning adaptations allow new insight into the constraints on, and repeatability of adaptations, and of the basis of non-additive interactions between adaptive mutations. Here we critically discuss a series of studies that examine the molecular-level adaptations that connect genetic changes and fitness
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1533–1542
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Society transactions
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

Cite this