On fluctuation analysis: a new, simple and efficient method for computing the expected number of mutants

Genetica. 1992;85(2):173-9. doi: 10.1007/BF00120324.


Fluctuation analysis, which is often used to demonstrate random mutagenesis in cell lines (and to estimate mutation rates), is based on the properties of a probability distribution known as the Luria-Delbrück distribution (and its generalizations). The two main new results reported in this paper are (i) a simple, completely general, and computationally efficient procedure for calculating probability distributions arising from fluctuation analysis and (ii) the formula for this procedure when cells in a colony have only grown for a finite number of generations after initial seeding. It is also shown that the procedure reduces to one that was developed earlier when an infinite number of generations is assumed. The derivation of the generating function of the distribution is also clarified. The results obtained should also be useful to experimentalists when only a relatively short time elapses between seeding and harvesting cultures for fluctuation analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Mathematics
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Probability