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Genetics. Mar 2000; 154(3): 1379–1387.
PMCID: PMC1460994

The degeneration of asexual haploid populations and the speed of Muller's ratchet.

Abstract

The accumulation of deleterious mutations due to the process known as Muller's ratchet can lead to the degeneration of nonrecombining populations. We present an analytical approximation for the rate at which this process is expected to occur in a haploid population. The approximation is based on a diffusion equation and is valid when N exp(-u/s) >> 1, where N is the population size, u is the rate at which deleterious mutations occur, and s is the effect of each mutation on fitness. Simulation results are presented to show that the approximation estimates the rate of the process better than previous approximations for values of mutation rates and selection coefficients that are compatible with the biological data. Under certain conditions, the ratchet can turn at a biologically significant rate when the deterministic equilibrium number of individuals free of mutations is substantially >100. The relevance of this process for the degeneration of Y or neo-Y chromosomes is discussed.

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Selected References

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