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Science. 1999 Sep 10;285(5434):1748-51.

High frequency of cryptic deleterious mutations in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK.


Deleterious mutations with very small phenotypic effects could be important for several evolutionary phenomena, but the extent of their contribution has been unknown. Fitness effects of induced mutations in lines of Caenorhabditis elegans were measured using a system for which the number of deleterious point mutations in the DNA can be estimated. In fitness assays, only about 4 percent of the deleterious mutations fixed in each line were detectable. The remaining 96 percent, though cryptic, are significant for mutation load and, potentially, for the evolution of sex.

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