A statistical guide to the design of deep mutational scanning experiments

Sebastian Matuszewski, Marcel E. Hildebrandt, Ana Hermina Ghenu, Jeffrey D. Jensen, Claudia Bank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The characterization of the distribution of mutational effects is a key goal in evolutionary biology. Recently developed deepsequencing approaches allow for accurate and simultaneous estimation of the fitness effects of hundreds of engineered mutations by monitoring their relative abundance across time points in a single bulk competition. Naturally, the achievable resolution of the estimated fitness effects depends on the specific experimental setup, the organism and type of mutations studied, and the sequencing technology utilized, among other factors. By means of analytical approximations and simulations, we provide guidelines for optimizing time-sampled deep-sequencing bulk competition experiments, focusing on the number of mutants, the sequencing depth, and the number of sampled time points. Our analytical results show that sampling more time points together with extending the duration of the experiment improves the achievable precision disproportionately compared with increasing the sequencing depth or reducing the number of competing mutants. Even if the duration of the experiment is fixed, sampling more time points and clustering these at the beginning and the end of the experiment increase experimental power and allow for efficient and precise assessment of the entire range of selection coefficients. Finally, we provide a formula for calculating the 95%-confidence interval for the measurement error estimate, which we implement as an interactive web tool. This allows for quantification of the maximum expected a priori precision of the experimental setup, as well as for a statistical threshold for determining deviations from neutrality for specific selection coefficient estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Distribution of fitness effects
  • Experimental design
  • Experimental evolution
  • Mutation
  • Population genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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