Rapid mutational declines of viability in Drosophila

Genet Res. 2001 Feb;77(1):53-60. doi: 10.1017/s0016672300004882.


High rates of mildly deleterious mutation could cause the extinction of small populations, reduce neutral genetic variation and provide an evolutionary advantage for sex. In the first attempts to estimate the rate of mildly deleterious mutation, Mukai and Ohnishi allowed spontaneous mutations to accumulate on D. melanogaster second chromosomes shielded from recombination and selection. Viability of the shielded chromosomes appeared to decline rapidly, implying a deleterious mutation rate on the order of one per zygote per generation. These results have been challenged, however; at issue is whether Mukai and Ohnishi may have confounded viability declines caused by mutation with declines resulting from environmental changes or other extraneous factors. Here, using a method not sensitive to non-mutational viability changes, I reanalyse the previous mutation-accumulation (MA) experiments, and report the results of a new one. I show that in each of four experiments, including Mukai's two experiments, viability declines due to mildly deleterious mutations were rapid. The results give no support for the view that Mukai overestimated the declines. Although there is substantial variation in estimates of genomic mutation rates from the experiments, this variation is probably due to some combination of sampling error, strain differences and differences in assay conditions, rather than to failure to distinguish mutational and non-mutational viability changes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Environment
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genotype
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mortality
  • Mutation*
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Selection, Genetic