A stochastic model for a single click of Muller's ratchet

J Theor Biol. 2010 Jun 21;264(4):1120-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.03.014. Epub 2010 Mar 15.


This work presents a new approach to Muller's ratchet, where Haigh's model is approximately mapped into a simpler model that describes the behaviour of a population after a click of the ratchet, i.e., after loss of what was the fittest class. This new model predicts the distribution of times to the next click of the ratchet and is equivalent to a Wright-Fisher model for a population of haploid asexual individuals with one locus and two alleles. Within this model, the fittest members of a population correspond to carriers of one allele, while all other individuals have suboptimal fitness and are represented as carriers of the other allele. In this way, all suboptimal fitness individuals are amalgamated into a single "mutant" class. The approach presented here has some limitations and the potential for improvement. However, it does lead to results for the rate of the ratchet that, over a wide range of parameters, are accurate within one order of magnitude of simulation results. This contrasts with existing approaches, which are designed for only one or other of the two different parameter regimes known for the ratchet and are more accurate only in the parameter regime they were designed for. Numerical results are presented for the mean time between clicks of the ratchet for (i) the Wright-Fisher model, (ii) a diffusion approximation of this model and (iii) individually based simulations of a full model. The diffusion approximation is validated over a wide range of parameters by its close agreement with the Wright-Fisher model. The present work predicts that: (a) the time between clicks of the ratchet is insensitive to the value of the selection coefficient when the genomic mutation rate is large compared with the selection coefficient against a deleterious mutation, (b) the time interval between clicks of the ratchet has, approximately, an exponential distribution (or its discrete analogue). It is thus possible to determine the variance in times between clicks, given the expected time between clicks. Evidence for both (a) and (b) is seen in simulations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Computer Simulation
  • Genetics, Population
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Stochastic Processes*