Cells and bacteria growing in culture are subject to mutation, and as this mutation is the ultimate substrate for selection and evolution, the factors controlling the mutation rate are of some interest. The mutational event is not observed directly, but is inferred from the phenotype of the original mutant or of its descendants; the rate of mutation is inferred from the number of such mutant phenotypes. Such inference presumes a knowledge of the probability distribution for the size of a clone arising from a single mutation. We develop a mathematical formulation that assists in the design and analysis of experiments which investigate mutation rates and mutant clone size distribution, and we use it to analyse data for which the classical Luria-Delbrück clone-size distribution must be rejected.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.