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Data from: Strong selection significantly increases epistatic interactions in the long-term evolution of a protein


Gupta, Aditi; Adami, Christoph (2017), Data from: Strong selection significantly increases epistatic interactions in the long-term evolution of a protein, Dryad, Dataset,


Epistatic interactions between residues determine a protein’s adaptability and shape its evolutionary trajectory. When a protein experiences a changed environment, it is under strong selection to find a peak in the new fitness landscape. It has been shown that strong selection increases epistatic interactions as well as the ruggedness of the fitness landscape, but little is known about how the epistatic interactions change under selection in the long-term evolution of a protein. Here we analyze the evolution of epistasis in the protease of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) using protease sequences collected for almost a decade from both treated and untreated patients, to understand how epistasis changes and how those changes impact the long-term evolvability of a protein. We use an information-theoretic proxy for epistasis that quantifies the co-variation between sites, and show that positive information is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition that detects epistasis in most cases. We analyze the “fossils” of the evolutionary trajectories of the protein contained in the sequence data, and show that epistasis continues to enrich under strong selection, but not for proteins whose environment is unchanged. The increase in epistasis compensates for the information loss due to sequence variability brought about by treatment, and facilitates adaptation in the increasingly rugged fitness landscape of treatment. While epistasis is thought to enhance evolvability via valley-crossing early-on in adaptation, it can hinder adaptation later when the landscape has turned rugged. However, we find no evidence that the HIV-1 protease has reached its potential for evolution after 9 years of adapting to a drug environment that itself is constantly changing. We suggest that the mechanism of encoding new information into pairwise interactions is central to protein evolution not just in HIV-1 protease, but for any protein adapting to a changing environment.

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