When properly determined, spontaneous mutation rates are a more accurate and biologically meaningful reflection of underlying mutagenic mechanisms than are mutant frequencies. Because bacteria grow exponentially and mutations arise stochastically, methods to estimate mutation rates depend on theoretical models that describe the distribution of mutant numbers among parallel cultures, as in the original Luria-Delbr]uck fluctuation analysis. An accurate determination of mutation rate depends on understanding the strengths and limitations of these methods, and how to design fluctuation assays to optimize a given method. In this paper we describe a number of methods to estimate mutation rates, give brief accounts of their derivations, and discuss how they behave under various experimental conditions.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.