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Genetics. Nov 1977; 87(3): 529–545.
PMCID: PMC1213759

Spontaneous and Ethyl Methanesulfonate-Induced Mutations Controlling Viability in DROSOPHILA MELANOGASTER. II. Homozygous Effect of Polygenic Mutations


Polygenic mutations affecting viability were accumulated on the second chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster by treating flies with EMS in successive generations. The treated chromosomes were later made homozygous and tested for their effects on viability by comparison of the frequency of such homozygotes with that of other genotypes in the same culture. The treated wild-type chromosomes were kept heterozygous in Pm/+ males by mating individual males in successive generations to Cy/Pm females. The number of generations of accumulation was 1 to 30 generations, depending on the concentration of EMS. A similar experiment for spontaneous polygenic mutations was also conducted by accumulating mutations for 40 generations. The lower limit of the spontaneous mutation rate of viability polygenes is estimated to be 0.06 per second chromosome per generation, which is about 12 times as high as the spontaneous recessive lethal mutation rate, 0.005. EMS-induced polygenic mutations increase linearly with the number of treated generations and with the concentration of EMS. The minimum mutation rate of viability polygenes is about 0.017 per 10-4 m, which is only slightly larger than the lethal rate of 0.013 per 10-4 m. The maximum estimate of the viability reduction of a single mutant is about 6 to 10 percent of the normal viability. The data are consistent with a constant average effect per mutant at all concentrations, but this is about three times as high as that for spontaneous mutants. It is obvious that one can obtain only a lower limit for the mutation rate, since some mutants may have effects so near to zero that they cannot be detected. The possibility of measuring something other than the lower limit is discussed. The ratio of the load due to detrimental mutants to that caused by lethals, the D/L ratio, is about 0.2 to 0.3 for EMS-induced mutants, as compared to about 0.5 for spontaneous mutants. This is to be expected if EMS treatment produces a large fraction of small deletions and other chromosome rearrangements which are more likely to be lethal.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Dobzhansky T, Spassky B, Spassky N. A Comparative Study of Mutation Rates in Two Ecologically Diverse Species of Drosophila. Genetics. 1952 Nov;37(6):650–664. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Greenberg R, Crow JF. A Comparison of the Effect of Lethal and Detrimental Chromosomes from Drosophila Populations. Genetics. 1960 Aug;45(8):1153–1168. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • PAXMAN GJ. A study of spontaneous mutation in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetica. 1958;29(1-2):39–57. [PubMed]

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