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Genetics. Mar 1983; 103(3): 513–527.
PMCID: PMC1202037

An Approach to Population and Evolutionary Genetic Theory for Genes in Mitochondria and Chloroplasts, and Some Results


We developed population genetic theory for organelle genes, using an infinite alleles model appropriate for molecular genetic data, and considering the effects of mutation and random drift on the frequencies of selectively neutral alleles. The effects of maternal inheritance and vegetative segregation of organelle genes are dealt with by defining new effective gene numbers, and substituting these for 2Ne in classical theory of nuclear genes for diploid organisms. We define three different effective gene numbers. The most general is Nλ, defined as a function of population size, number of organelle genomes per cell, and proportions of genes contributed by male and female gametes to the zygote. In many organisms, vegetative segregation of organelle genomes and intracellular random drift of organelle gene frequencies combine to produce a predominance of homoplasmic cells within individuals in the population. Then, the effective number of organelle genes is Neo, a simple function of the numbers of males and females and of the maternal and paternal contributions to the zygote. Finally, when the paternal contribution is very small, N eo is closely approximated by the number of females, N f. Then if the sex ratio is 1, the mean time to fixation or loss of new mutations is approximately two times longer for nuclear genes than for organelle genes, and gene diversity is approximately four times greater. The difference between nuclear and organelle genes disappears or is reversed in animals in which males have large harems. The differences between nuclear and organelle gene behavior caused by maternal inheritance and vegetative segregation are generally small and may be overshadowed by differences in mutation rates to neutral alleles. For monoecious organisms, the effective number of organelle genes is approximately equal to the total population size N. We also show that a population can be effectively subdivided for organelle genes at migration rates which result in panmixis for nuclear genes, especially if males migrate more than females.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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