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Accumulation of mutations in sexual and asexual populations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2009

Pekka Pamilo
Center for Demographic and Population Genetics, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, P.O. Box 20334, Houston, Texas 77225, U.S.A.
Masatoshi Nei
Center for Demographic and Population Genetics, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, P.O. Box 20334, Houston, Texas 77225, U.S.A.
Wen-Hsiung Li
Center for Demographic and Population Genetics, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, P.O. Box 20334, Houston, Texas 77225, U.S.A.
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The accumulation of beneficial and harmful mutations in a genome is studied by using analytical methods as well as computer simulation for different modes of reproduction. The modes of reproduction examined are biparental (bisexual, hermaphroditic), uniparental (selfing, automictic, asexual) and mixed (partial selfing, mixture of hermaphroditism and parthenogenesis). It is shown that the rates of accumulation of both beneficial and harmful mutations with weak selection depend on the within-population variance of the number of mutant genes per genome. Analytical formulae for this variance are derived for neutral mutant genes for hermaphroditic, selfing and asexual populations; the neutral variance is largest in a selfing population and smallest in an asexual population. Directional selection reduces the population variance in most cases, whereas recombination partially restores the reduced variance. Therefore, biparental organisms accumulate beneficial mutations at the highest rate and harmful mutations at the lowest rate. Selfing organisms are intermediate between biparental and asexual organisms. Even a limited amount of outcrossing in largely selfing and parthenogenetic organisms markedly affects the accumulation rates. The accumulation of mutations is likely to affect the mean population fitness only in long-term evolution.

Research Article
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