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Genetics. 2000 May;155(1):369-78.

Spontaneous mutational effects on reproductive traits of arabidopsis thaliana.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.


A study of spontaneous mutation in Arabidopsis thaliana was initiated from a single inbred Columbia founder; 120 lines were established and advanced 17 generations by single-seed descent. Here, we report an assay of reproductive traits in a random set of 40 lines from generations 8 and 17, grown together at the same time with plants representing generation 0. For three reproductive traits, mean number of seeds per fruit, number of fruits, and dry mass of the infructescence, the means did not differ significantly among generations. Nevertheless, by generation 17, significant divergence among lines was detected for each trait, indicating accumulation of mutations in some lines. Standardized measures of mutational variance accord with those obtained for other organisms. These findings suggest that the distribution of mutational effects for these traits is approximately symmetric, in contrast to the usual assumption that mutations have predominantly negative effects on traits directly related to fitness. Because distinct generations were grown contemporaneously, each line was represented by three sublines, and seeds were equal in age, these estimates are free of potentially substantial sources of bias. The finding of an approximately symmetric distribution of mutational effects invalidates the standard approach for inferring properties of spontaneous mutation and necessitates further development of more general approaches that avoid restrictions on the distribution of mutational effects.

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