Jun 10, 2011

The balance between mutators and nonmutators in asexual populations

Michael M Desai, Daniel S Fisher


Mutator alleles, which elevate an individual's mutation rate from 10 to 10,000-fold, have been found at high frequencies in many natural and experimental populations. Mutators are continually produced from nonmutators, often due to mutations in mismatch-repair genes. These mutators gradually accumulate deleterious mutations, limiting their spread. However, they can occasionally hitchhike to high frequencies with beneficial mutations. We study the interplay between these effects. We first analyze the dynamics of the balance between the production of mutator alleles and their elimination due to deleterious mutations. We find that when deleterious mutation rates are high in mutators, there will often be many "young," recently produced mutators in the population, and the fact that deleterious mutations only gradually eliminate individuals from a population is important. We then consider how this mutator-nonmutator balance can be disrupted by beneficial mutations and analyze the circumstances in which fixation of mutator alleles is likely. We find that dynamics is crucial: even in situations where selection on average acts against mutators, so they cannot stably invade, the mutators can still occasionally generate beneficial mutatio...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

In Silico
Reproduction, Asexual
Sample Fixation
Deleterious Mutation
Genetic Fitness
Mutation Abnormality
Evolution, Molecular

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