No signal of deleterious mutation accumulation in conserved gene sequences of extant asexual hexapods

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 29;9(1):5338. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41821-x.


Loss of sex and recombination is generally assumed to impede the effectiveness of purifying selection and to result in the accumulation of slightly deleterious mutations. Empirical evidence for this has come from several studies investigating mutational load in a small number of individual genes. However, recent whole transcriptome based studies have yielded inconsistent results, hence questioning the validity of the assumption of mutational meltdown in asexual populations. Here, we study the effectiveness of purifying selection in eight asexual hexapod lineages and their sexual relatives, as present in the 1 K Insect Transcriptome Evolution (1KITE) project, covering eight hexapod groups. We analyse the accumulation of slightly deleterious nonsynonymous and synonymous point mutations in 99 single copy orthologue protein-coding loci shared among the investigated taxa. While accumulation rates of nonsynonymous mutations differed between genes and hexapod groups, we found no effect of reproductive mode on the effectiveness of purifying selection acting at nonsynonymous and synonymous sites. Although the setup of this study does not fully rule out nondetection of subtle effects, our data does not support the established consensus of asexual lineages undergoing 'mutational meltdown'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Insecta / classification
  • Insecta / genetics*
  • Mutation Accumulation*
  • Reproduction, Asexual / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Silent Mutation
  • Species Specificity

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.5501rv4