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Biol Lett. 2013 Feb 23;9(1):20120310. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0310. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Model and test in a fungus of the probability that beneficial mutations survive drift.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK.


Determining the probability of fixation of beneficial mutations is critically important for building predictive models of adaptive evolution. Despite considerable theoretical work, models of fixation probability have stood untested for nearly a century. However, recent advances in experimental and theoretical techniques permit the development of models with testable predictions. We developed a new model for the probability of surviving genetic drift, a major component of fixation probability, for novel beneficial mutations in the fungus Aspergillus nidulans, based on the life-history characteristics of its colony growth on a solid surface. We tested the model by measuring the probability of surviving drift in 11 adapted strains introduced into wild-type populations of different densities. We found that the probability of surviving drift increased with mutant invasion fitness, and decreased with wild-type density, as expected. The model accurately predicted the survival probability for the majority of mutants, yielding one of the first direct tests of the extinction probability of beneficial mutations.

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