The distribution of mutational effects on fitness is central to evolutionary genetics. Typical univariate distributions, however, cannot model the effects of multiple mutations at the same site, so we introduce a model in which mutations at the same site have correlated fitness effects. To infer the strength of that correlation, we developed a diffusion approximation to the triallelic frequency spectrum, which we applied to data from Drosophila melanogaster. We found a moderate positive correlation between the fitness effects of nonsynonymous mutations at the same codon, suggesting that both mutation identity and location are important for determining fitness effects in proteins. We validated our approach by comparing it to biochemical mutational scanning experiments, finding strong quantitative agreement, even between different organisms. We also found that the correlation of mutational fitness effects was not affected by protein solvent exposure or structural disorder. Together, our results suggest that the correlation of fitness effects at the same site is a previously overlooked yet fundamental property of protein evolution.
- diffusion approximation
- distribution of fitness effects
- Drosophila melanogaster
- nonsynonymous mutations
- triallelic sites
- Received November 13, 2015.
- Accepted March 19, 2016.
- Copyright © 2016 by the Genetics Society of America