Estimation of deleterious-mutation parameters in natural populations

Hong Wen Deng, Michael Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The rate and average effects of spontaneous deleterious mutations are important determinants of the evolution of breeding systems and of the vulnerability of small populations to extinction. Nevertheless, few attempts have been made to estimate the properties of such mutations, and those studies that have been performed have been extremely labor intensive, relying on long-term, laboratory mutation-accumulation experiments. We present an alternative to the latter approach. For populations in which the genetic variance for fitness is a consequence of selection-mutation balance, the mean fitness and genetic variance of fitness in outbred and inbred generations can be expressed as simple functions of the genomic mutation rate, average homozygous effect and average dominance coefficient of new mutations. Using empirical estimates for the mean and genetic variance of fitness, these expressions can then be solved to obtain joint estimates of the deleterious- mutation parameters. We employ computer simulations to evaluate the degree of bias of the estimators and present some general recommendations on the application of the technique. Our procedures provide some hope for obtaining estimates of the properties of deleterious mutations from a wide phylogenetic range of species as well as a mechanism for testing the validity of alternative models for the maintenance of genetic variance for fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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