Evaluating the contributions of purifying selection and progeny-skew in dictating within-host Mycobacterium tuberculosis evolution

Ana Y. Morales-Arce, Rebecca B. Harris, Anne C. Stone, Jeffrey D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The within-host evolutionary dynamics of tuberculosis (TB) remain unclear, and underlying biological characteristics render standard population genetic approaches based upon the Wright-Fisher model largely inappropriate. In addition, the compact genome combined with an absence of recombination is expected to result in strong purifying selection effects. Thus, it is imperative to establish a biologically relevant evolutionary framework incorporating these factors in order to enable an accurate study of this important human pathogen. Further, such a model is critical for inferring fundamental evolutionary parameters related to patient treatment, including mutation rates and the severity of infection bottlenecks. We here implement such a model and infer the underlying evolutionary parameters governing within-patient evolutionary dynamics. Results demonstrate that the progeny skew associated with the clonal nature of TB severely reduces genetic diversity and that the neglect of this parameter in previous studies has led to significant mis-inference of mutation rates. As such, our results suggest an underlying de novo mutation rate that is considerably faster than previously inferred, and a progeny distribution differing significantly from Wright-Fisher assumptions. This inference represents a more appropriate evolutionary null model, against which the periodic effects of positive selection, associated with drug-resistance for example, may be better assessed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-1001
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Mutation rate
  • Wright-Fisher model
  • population bottleneck
  • population genetics
  • progeny-skew
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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