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Genetica. 1998;102-103(1-6):507-24.

Mutation and selection within the individual.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Selection within the individual may have played a critical and creative role in evolution, boosting the survival chances of mutations beneficial to the cell and the individual, hindering the spread of deleterious mutations, and reducing the genetic load imposed on the population. We review the literature and present new results to describe the effects of cell-lineage selection on the rate and fixation probability of new mutations. Cell-lineage selection can alter these quantities by several orders of magnitude. Cell-lineage selection is especially important in the case of rare recessive mutations, which are hidden from selection at the individual level but may be exposed to selection at cellular level. Because selection within the individual acts as a sieve eliminating deleterious mutations and increasing the frequency of beneficial ones, mutations observed among progeny will have been pre-selected and are more likely to increase cell proliferation than would randomly generated mutations. Although many authors have focused on the potential conflict between selection at the cellular and individual levels, it must be much more common that the two levels act concordantly. When selection at the cell and individual levels act in a cooperative manner, increased rather than decreased opportunity for germline selection will be favored by evolution.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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