It has been hypothesized that new, spontaneous mutations tend to reduce fitness more severely in more stressful environments. To address this hypothesis, we grew plants representing 20 Arabidopsis thaliana mutation-accumulation (M-A) lines, advanced to generation 17, and their progenitor, in differing light conditions. The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse, and two treatments were used: full sun and shade, in which influx of red light was reduced relative to far-red. The shade treatment was considered the more stressful because mean absolute fitness was lower in that treatment, though not significantly so. Plants from generation 17 of M-A developed significantly faster than those from generation 0 in both treatments. A significant interaction between generation and treatment revealed that, counter to the hypothesis, M-A lines tended to have higher fitness on average relative to the progenitor in the shaded conditions, whereas, in full sun, the two generations were similar in fitness. A secondary objective of this experiment was to characterize the contribution of new mutations to genotype × environment interaction. We did not, however, detect a significant interaction between M-A line and treatment. Plots of the line-specific environmental responses indicate no tendency of new mutations to contribute to fitness trade-offs between environments. They also do not support a model of conditionally deleterious mutation, in which a mutant reduces fitness only in a particular environment. These results suggest that interactions between genotype and light environment previously documented for A. thaliana are not explicable primarily as a consequence of steady input of spontaneous mutations having environment-specific effects.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2