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PLoS Biol. 2008 Feb;6(2):e30. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060030.

Increased transmission of mutations by low-condition females: evidence for condition-dependent DNA repair.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Evidence is mounting that mutation rates are sufficiently high for deleterious alleles to be a major evolutionary force affecting the evolution of sex, the maintenance of genetic variation, and many other evolutionary phenomena. Though point estimates of mutation rates are improving, we remain largely ignorant of the biological factors affecting these rates at the individual level. Of special importance is the possibility that mutation rates are condition-dependent with low-condition individuals experiencing more mutation. Theory predicts that such condition dependence would dramatically increase the rate at which populations adapt to new environments and the extent to which populations suffer from mutation load. Despite its importance, there has been little study of this phenomenon in multicellular organisms. Here, we examine whether DNA repair processes are condition-dependent in Drosophila melanogaster. In this species, damaged DNA in sperm can be repaired by maternal repair processes after fertilization. We exposed high- and low-condition females to sperm containing damaged DNA and then assessed the frequency of lethal mutations on paternally derived X chromosomes transmitted by these females. The rate of lethal mutations transmitted by low-condition females was 30% greater than that of high-condition females, indicating reduced repair capacity of low-condition females. A separate experiment provided no support for an alternative hypothesis based on sperm selection.

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