Research Topic

Genomics of experimental evolution

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Biology as a science is beginning its third century with new genomic foundations. The challenge is to erect the new genomic-based biology, particularly designing and executing experiments to parse vast assemblages of data. This Research Topic of Frontiers in Genetics is a forum for discussing emerging new ...

Biology as a science is beginning its third century with new genomic foundations. The challenge is to erect the new genomic-based biology, particularly designing and executing experiments to parse vast assemblages of data. This Research Topic of Frontiers in Genetics is a forum for discussing emerging new strategies in experimental evolutionary genomics.

Genomics has inflicted a Midas-like curse upon biology: everything we sequence yields empirical gold, promising far more about genetic foundations than many of us thought possible. But 20th Century biology that merely adds vast amounts of sequence data remains difficult to interpret. Accumulation of many mutations between individuals within a population or between species makes the inference of mutation contribution to phenotype difficult, especially when the phenotypes are complex.

Our hope is that such paradoxes can be resolved through improved experimental evolution (EE). EE is by essence evolution in a controlled environment and by constraints limited in terms of generations. As a result, experimental evolution coupled to whole genome sequencing offers a unique opportunity to uncover the molecular determinants of adaptation in a non-speculative intelligible way: few molecular events modulate quantifiable changes in phenotype and/or fitness. Our objective is to explore how experimental evolutionary genomics affords the overall means to make sense of the avalanche of genomic data, so that biology can become a strong-inference science.

Among the challenges of interest, we have identified the following thematic clusters, in anticipation of the submissions of our contributors:
• What are the molecular bases of adaptation? What is the contribution to adaptation of the different types of mutations (point mutations versus copy number variants or deletions, transposable elements, coding versus non-coding) or of the genes (regulatory, structural, metabolic, and so on)?
• What are the properties of the adaptive landscape? How do beneficial mutations interact with one another and how do these interactions shape the fitness trajectories?
• How does the genetic system of the evolving population affect the type of mutations and interactions selected? Experimental evolution allows variation in mating systems, levels of recombination and rates of mutation that may strongly affect the patterns of molecular evolution.
• Similarly, how do the populational demographic patterns affect these patterns of molecular evolution? Changes in population size may be easily controlled in experimental evolution may alter the type of mutation selected.
• How can the specific results of experimental evolutionary genomics be used to uncover the dynamics of adaptation and to infer parameters about the evolving population?
• How can the results from experimental evolution be extrapolated to make sense of the abundant genome-wide data that is being acquired from closely related species or within populations.

We aspire to make this Research Topic publication a landmark in the development of experimental evolutionary genomics and its implications for biological science.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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