Epistatic interactions can lower the cost of resistance to multiple consumers

Brendan J.M. Bohannan, Michael Travisano, Richard E. Lenski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


It is widely assumed that resistance to consumers (e.g., predators or pathogens) comes at a 'cost,' that is, when the consumer is absent the resistant organisms are less fit than their susceptible counterparts. It is unclear what factors determine this cost. We demonstrate that epistasis between genes that confer resistance to two different consumers can alter the cost of resistance. We used as a model system the bacterium Escherichia coli and two different viruses (bacteriophages), T4 and λ, that prey upon E. coli. Epistasis tended to reduce the costs of multiple resistance in this system. However, the extent of cost savings and its statistical significance depended on the environment in which fitness was measured, whether the null hypothesis for gene interaction was additive or multiplicative, and subtle differences among mutations that conferred the same resistance phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-295
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1999


  • Bacteria
  • Cost of resistance
  • Epistasis
  • Resistance
  • Viruses


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