A major goal of genetics and evolutionary biology is to understand how changes in genotype affect phenotype. Genetic variants affecting fitness are especially informative for investigating evolution, since natural selection acts exclusively on these variants. By identifying specific variants that influence fitness, we can begin to understand the molecular mechanisms driving the incredible adaptations of all organisms to their environments. We recently developed an approach that allows us to edit genomes with unprecedented efficiency (~100%) and throughput, and precisely measure each edit?s effect on fitness. In our initial screen, we measured the fitness effects of 16,000 natural genetic variants differing between two strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In this pilot experiment, we measured the effects of each variant in isolation, in a single condition. We found that nearly all strong fitness effects were from promoter variants, rather than protein-coding regions, and these were especially enriched at transcription factor binding sites. Here we propose to utilize this powerful system to investigate two concepts of fundamental importance: the role of selection in shaping genetic variation in Aim 1, and gene-by-environment (GxE) interactions in Aim 2. This project will reveal key insights into the evolutionary process that would be unapproachable without our high-throughput precision genome editing technology.
The subject of this project?mapping genotype to phenotype?is of great importance to biomedicine. For example, mutations are a major source of human disease, and understanding how genetic variants impact fitness in a model organism may shed light on these relationships in humans as well.
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