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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Feb 7;274(1608):417-24.

Selection against males in Caenorhabditis elegans under two mutational treatments.

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Centro de Biologia do Desenvolvimento, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Apartado 14, 2781-901 Oeiras, Portugal.


Within populations with mixed mating systems, selfing is expected to be favoured over outcrossing unless a countervailing process such as severe inbreeding depression is present. In this study, we consider the relationship between the expression of deleterious alleles and the maintenance of outcrossing in the nematode species, Caenorhabditis elegans. This species is characterized by an androdioecious breeding system composed of males at low frequency and self-fertilizing hermaphrodites that can only outcross via males. Here, we find that experimentally increasing the mutational load in four different isogenic wild isolates using 10 generations of Ethylmethane sulphonate (EMS) and UV irradiation mutagenesis significantly diminishes the cost of males. Males are maintained at higher frequencies in mutagenized versus non-mutagenized populations. Nevertheless, males still tend to be driven to low frequencies within isolates that are known to be prone to lose males. Further, we determine the viability effects of a single round of mutagen exposure and find that, for EMS, outcrossing overcomes the almost completely recessive and nearly lethal effects generated. We briefly interpret our results in light of current evolutionary theory of outcrossing rates.

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