Bohannan, B. J. M., M. Travisano, and R. E. Lenski. 1999. Epistatic interactions can lower the cost of resistance to multiple consumers. Evolution 53:292-295.
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 lambda, that prey upon E. coil. 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.