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Nature. 2002 Apr 4;416(6880):531-4.

The cost of inbreeding in Arabidopsis.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 16 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


Population geneticists have long sought to estimate the distribution of selection intensities among genes of diverse function across the genome. Only recently have DNA sequencing and analytical techniques converged to make this possible. Important advances have come from comparing genetic variation within species (polymorphism) with fixed differences between species (divergence). These approaches have been used to examine individual genes for evidence of selection. Here we use the fact that the time since species divergence allows combination of data across genes. In a comparison of amino-acid replacements among species of the mustard weed Arabidopsis with those among species of the fruitfly Drosophila, we find evidence for predominantly beneficial gene substitutions in Drosophila but predominantly detrimental substitutions in Arabidopsis. We attribute this difference to the Arabidopsis mating system of partial self-fertilization, which corroborates a prediction of population genetics theory that species with a high frequency of inbreeding are less efficient in eliminating deleterious mutations owing to their reduced effective population size.

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