Estimation of spontaneous mutation rates

Biometrics. 2003 Sep;59(3):555-61. doi: 10.1111/1541-0420.00065.


Spontaneous or randomly occurring mutations play a key role in cancer progression. Estimation of the mutation rate of cancer cells can provide useful information about the disease. To ascertain these mutation rates, we need mathematical models that describe the distribution of mutant cells. In this investigation, we develop a discrete time stochastic model for a mutational birth process. We assume that mutations occur concurrently with mitosis so that when a nonmutant parent cell splits into two progeny, one of these daughter cells could carry a mutation. We propose an estimator for the mutation rate and investigate its statistical properties via theory and simulations. A salient feature of this estimator is the ease with which it can be computed. The methods developed herein are applied to a human colorectal cancer cell line and compared to existing continuous time models.

MeSH terms

  • Biometry
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mutation*