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Genetics. 2002 Oct;162(2):755-65.

Spontaneous mutational variation for body size in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Imperial College, Berks SL5 7PY, United Kingdom.


We measured the impact of new mutations on genetic variation for body size in two independent sets of C. elegans spontaneous mutation-accumulation (MA) lines, derived from the N2 strain, that had been maintained by selfing for 60 or 152 generations. The two sets of lines gave broadly consistent results. The change of among-line genetic variation between cryopreserved controls and the MA lines implied that broad sense heritability increased by 0.4% per generation. Overall, MA reduced mean body size by approximately 0.1% per generation. The genome-wide rate for mutations with detectable effects on size was estimated to be approximately 0.0025 per haploid genome per generation, and their mean effects were approximately 20%. The proportion of mutations that increase body size was estimated by maximum likelihood to be no more than 20%, suggesting that the amount of mutational variation available for selection for increased size could be quite small. This hypothesis was supported by an artificial selection experiment on adult body size, started from a single highly inbred N2 individual. We observed a strongly asymmetrical response to selection of a magnitude consistent with the input of mutational variance observed in the MA experiment.

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