Mitochondrial-Nuclear Epistasis Contributes to Phenotypic Variation and Coadaptation in Natural Isolates of Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Swati Paliwal, Anthony C. Fiumera, Heather L. Fiumera


Mitochondria are essential multifunctional organelles whose metabolic functions, biogenesis and maintenance are controlled through genetic interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. In natural populations, mitochondrial efficiencies may be impacted by epistatic interactions between naturally segregating genome variants. The extent that mitochondrial-nuclear epistasis contributes to the phenotypic variation present in nature is unknown. We have systematically replaced mtDNAs in a collection of divergent Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast isolates, and quantified the effects on growth rates in a variety of environments. We found that mitochondrial-nuclear interactions significantly affected growth rates, and explained a substantial proportion of the phenotypic variances in some environmental conditions. Naturally occurring mitochondrial-nuclear genome combinations were more likely to provide growth advantages, but genetic distance could not predict the effects of epistasis. Interruption of naturally occurring mitochondrial-nuclear genome combinations increased endogenous reactive oxygen species (ROS) in several strains to levels that were not always proportional to growth rate differences. Our results demonstrate that interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes generate phenotypic diversity in natural populations of yeasts, and that coadaptation of intergenomic interactions likely occurs quickly within the specific niches that yeast occupy. This study reveals the importance of considering allelic interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes when investigating evolutionary relationships and mapping the genetic basis underlying complex traits.

  • Received July 18, 2014.
  • Accepted August 21, 2014.