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Genetics. 1989 Jan;121(1):163-74.

Evolutionarily stable mutation rate in a periodically changing environment.

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  • 1College of General Education, Nagoya University, Nagoya 464, Japan.


Evolution of mutation rate controlled by a neutral modifier is studied for a locus with two alleles under temporally fluctuating selection pressure. A general formula is derived to calculate the evolutionarily stable mutation rate mu(ess) in an infinitely large haploid population, and following results are obtained. (I) For any fluctuation, periodic or random: (1) if the recombination rate r per generation between the modifier and the main locus is 0, mu(ess) is the same as the optimal mutation rate mu(op) which maximizes the long-term geometric average of population fitness; and (2) for any r, if the strength s of selection per generation is very large, mu(ess) is equal to the reciprocal of the average number T of generations (duration time) during which one allele is persistently favored than the other. (II) For a periodic fluctuation in the limit of small s and r, mu(ess)T is a function of sT and rT with properties: (1) for a given sT, mu(ess)T decreases with increasing rT; (2) for sT </= 1, mu(ess)T is almost independent of sT, and depends on rT as mu(ess)T & 1.6 for rT << 1 and mu(ess)T & 6/rT for rT >> 1; and (3) for sT >/= 1, and for a given rT, mu(ess)T decreases with increasing sT to a certain minimum less than 1, and then increases to 1 asymptotically in the limit of large sT. (III) For a fluctuation consisting of multiple Fourier components (i.e., sine wave components), the component with the longest period is the most effective in determining mu(ess) (low pass filter effect). (IV) When the cost c of preventing mutation is positive, the modifier is nonneutral, and mu(ess) becomes larger than in the case of neutral modifier under the same selection pressure acting at the main locus. The value of c which makes mu(ess) equal to mu(op) of the neutral modifier case is calculated. It is argued that this value gives a critical cost such that, so long as the actual cost exceeds this value, the evolution rate at the main locus must be smaller than its mutation rate mu(ess).

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