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Genetics. Mar 2000; 154(3): 1193–1201.
PMCID: PMC1461002

Multigeneration maximum-likelihood analysis applied to mutation-accumulation experiments in Caenorhabditis elegans.


We develop a maximum-likelihood (ML) approach to estimate genomic mutation rates (U) and average homozygous mutation effects (s) from mutation-accumulation (MA) experiments in which phenotypic assays are carried out in several generations. We use simulations to compare the procedure's performance with the method of moments traditionally used to analyze MA data. Similar precision is obtained if mutation effects are small relative to the environmental standard deviation, but ML can give estimates of mutation parameters that have lower sampling variances than those obtained by the method of moments if mutations with large effects have accumulated. The inclusion of data from intermediate generations may improve the precision. We analyze life-history trait data from two Caenorhabditis elegans MA experiments. Under a model with equal mutation effects, the two experiments provide similar estimates for U of approximately 0.005 per haploid, averaged over traits. Estimates of s are more divergent and average at -0.51 and -0.13 in the two studies. Detailed analysis shows that changes of mean and variance of genetic values of MA lines in both C. elegans experiments are dominated by mutations with large effects, but the analysis does not rule out the presence of a large class of deleterious mutations with very small effects.

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Selected References

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