For the human population to maintain a constant size from generation to generation, an increase in fertility must compensate for the reduction in the mean fitness of the population caused, among others, by deleterious mutations. The required increase in fertility due to this mutational load depends on the number of sites in the genome that are functional, the mutation rate, and the fraction of deleterious mutations among all mutations in functional regions. These dependencies and the fact that there exists a maximum tolerable replacement level fertility can be used to put an upper limit on the fraction of the human genome that can be functional. Mutational load considerations lead to the conclusion that the functional fraction within the human genome cannot exceed 25%, and is probably considerably lower.
Keywords: human genome; junk DNA; mutational load.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.