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Theor Popul Biol. 2012 Mar;81(2):168-78. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2011.11.005. Epub 2011 Dec 3.

Estimation of the rate and effect of new beneficial mutations in asexual populations.

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Department of Mathematics, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-3008, USA.


The rate and effect of available beneficial mutations are key parameters in determining how a population adapts to a new environment. However, these parameters are poorly known, in large part because of the difficulty of designing and interpreting experiments to examine the rare and intrinsically stochastic process of mutation occurrence. We present a new approach to estimate the rate and selective advantage of beneficial mutations that underlie the adaptation of asexual populations. We base our approach on the analysis of experiments that track the effect of newly arising beneficial mutations on the dynamics of a neutral marker in evolving bacterial populations and develop efficient estimators of mutation rate and selective advantage. Using extensive simulations, we evaluate the accuracy of our estimators and conclude that they are quite robust to the use of relatively low experimental replication. To validate the predictions of our model, we compare theoretical and experimentally determined estimates of the selective advantage of the first beneficial mutation to fix in a series of ten replicate populations. We find that our theoretical predictions are not significantly different from experimentally determined selection coefficients. Application of our method to suitably designed experiments will allow estimation of how population evolvability depends on demographic and initial fitness parameters.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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