Kick-Starting the Ratchet: The Fate of Mutators in an Asexual Population
2011 (English)In: Genetics, ISSN 0016-6731, E-ISSN 1943-2631, Vol. 187, no 4, 1129-1137 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Muller's ratchet operates in asexual populations without intergenomic recombination. In this case, deleterious mutations will accumulate and population fitness will decline over time, possibly endangering the survival of the species. Mutator mutations, i.e., mutations that lead to an increased mutation rate, will play a special role for the behavior of the ratchet. First, they are part of the ratchet and can come to dominance through accumulation in the ratchet. Second, the fitness-loss rate of the ratchet is very sensitive to changes in the mutation rate and even a modest increase can easily set the ratchet in motion. In this article we simulate the interplay between fitness loss from Muller's ratchet and the evolution of the mutation rate from the fixation of mutator mutations. As long as the mutation rate is increased in sufficiently small steps, an accelerating ratchet and eventual extinction are inevitable. If this can be countered by antimutators, i.e., mutations that reduce the mutation rate, an equilibrium can be established for the mutation rate at some level that may allow survival. However, the presence of the ratchet amplifies fluctuations in the mutation rate and, even at equilibrium, these fluctuations can lead to dangerous bursts in the ratchet. We investigate the timescales of these processes and discuss the results with reference to the genome degradation of the aphid endosymbiont Buchnera aphidicola.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 187, no 4, 1129-1137 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-152903DOI: 10.1534/genetics.110.124818ISI: 000289277300017PubMedID: 21288878OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-152903DiVA: diva2:414475