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Mutat Res. 2002 Dec 29;510(1-2):141-52.

Cell-selfish modes of evolution and mutations directed after transcriptional bypass.

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Biology Department, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, 1455 E Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010, USA.


During transcription, prokaryotic and eukaryotic RNA polymerases bypass and misread (transcriptional mutagenesis) several classes of DNA lesions. For example, misreading of 8-OH-dG generates mRNAs containing G to T transversions. After translation, if the mutant protein briefly allowed the cell a growth-DNA replication advantage, then precocious DNA replication would bypass that unrepaired 8-OH-dG and misinsert dA opposite the directing DNA lesion with a higher probability than would be experienced for 8-OH-G lesions at other positions in otherwise identical neighboring cells. Such retromutations would have been tested for their imparted growth advantage as mRNA before they became heritable DNA mutations. The logical properties of a mode of evolution that utilizes directed-retromutagenesis were compared one by one with those of the standard neo-Darwinian mode. The retromutagenesis mode, while minimizing mutational load, is cell-selfish; fitness is for an immediate growth advantage rather than future reproductive potential. In prokaryotes, an evolutionary mode that involves standard Darwinian fitness testing of novel alleles in the genetic background of origin followed by clonal expansion also favors cell-selfish allele combinations when linkage disequilibrium is practiced. For metazoa and plants to have evolved organized tissues, cell-selfish modes of evolution represent systems-poisons that must be totally suppressed. The feedback loops that allow evolution to be cell-serving in prokaryotes are actively blocked in eukaryotes by traits that restrict fitness to future reproductive potential. These traits include (i) delay of fitness testing until after the mutation is made permanently heritable, (ii) diploidy to further delay fitness testing, (iii) segregation of somatic lines from germ lines, (iv) testing of novel alleles against randomized allele combinations constructed by obligate sex, and (v) obligate genetic death to insure that that the most basic systems unit of selfish allele combinatorial uniqueness is the species instead of the cell. The analyses indicate that modes of evolution in addition to our neo-Darwinian one could have existed utilizing known molecular mechanisms. The evolution of multicellularity was as much the discarding of old cell-selfish habits as the acquisition of new altruistic ones.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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