Mutation Is a Sufficient and Robust Predictor of Genetic Variation for Mitotic Spindle Traits in Caenorhabditis elegans

Genetics. 2016 Aug;203(4):1859-70. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.185736. Epub 2016 Jun 22.


Different types of phenotypic traits consistently exhibit different levels of genetic variation in natural populations. There are two potential explanations: Either mutation produces genetic variation at different rates or natural selection removes or promotes genetic variation at different rates. Whether mutation or selection is of greater general importance is a longstanding unresolved question in evolutionary genetics. We report mutational variances (VM) for 19 traits related to the first mitotic cell division in Caenorhabditis elegans and compare them to the standing genetic variances (VG) for the same suite of traits in a worldwide collection C. elegans Two robust conclusions emerge. First, the mutational process is highly repeatable: The correlation between VM in two independent sets of mutation accumulation lines is ∼0.9. Second, VM for a trait is a good predictor of VG for that trait: The correlation between VM and VG is ∼0.9. This result is predicted for a population at mutation-selection balance; it is not predicted if balancing selection plays a primary role in maintaining genetic variation.

Keywords: mutation accumulation; mutational robustness; mutational variance; mutation–selection balance; persistence time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*
  • Spindle Apparatus / genetics*