Age- and sex-distribution of the mutation load

Genetica. 1999;106(3):251-62. doi: 10.1023/a:1003988101586.


We investigate the age and sex distribution of genetic fitness under mutation-selection balance by means of simple one-locus two-allele models. We find that the extent of age and sex variation in the mutation load is very dependent on the average effect of new mutations. If the average heterozygote selective effect of new mutations is large, then age and sex differences may constitute a significant fraction of the total load, and be significant as compared to standing genetic variation. Whether the mutation load will increase or decrease with age depends on the age- and sex-specific effects of the new mutations, and on the rate of accumulation of mutations in the germ line as individuals age. We argue that the load will most likely increase with age in animals with continuous germ-cell division throughout life, and that this will occur even when mutations have unconditionally deleterious effects. We show that a male-biased mutation rate is likely to result in both a male-biased mutation load and a load that increases with male age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics
  • Heterozygote
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors