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Genetics. 1995 Nov;141(3):1173-87.

Evolutionary consequences of mutation and selection within an individual.

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  • 1Institute of Cellular, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


Whether in sexual or asexual organisms, selection among cell lineages during development is an effective way of eliminating deleterious mutations. Using a mathematical analysis, we find that relatively small differences in cell replication rates during development can translate into large differences in the proportion of mutant cells within the adult, especially when development involves a large number of cell divisions. Consequently, intraorganismal selection can substantially reduce the deleterious mutation rate observed among offspring as well as the mutation load within a population, because cells rather than individuals provide the selective "deaths" necessary to stem the tide of deleterious mutations. The reduction in mutation rate among offspring is more pronounced in organisms with plastic development than in those with structured development. It is also more pronounced in asexual organisms that produce multicellular rather than unicellular offspring. By effecting the mutation rate, intraorganismal selection may have broad evolutionary implications; as an example, we consider its influence on the evolution of ploidy levels, finding that cell-lineage selection is more effective in haploids and tends to favor their evolution.

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