Premeiotic Clusters of Mutation and the Cost of Natural Selection

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Abstract

Haldane stated that there is a cost of natural selection for new beneficial alleles to be substituted over time. Most of this cost, which leads to “genetic deaths,” is in the early generations of the substitution process when the new allele is low in frequency. It depends on the initial frequency and dominance value, but not the selection coefficient, of the advantageous allele. There have been numerous suggestions on how to reduce the cost for preexisting genetic variation that goes from disadvantageous, or neutral, to advantageous with a change in the environment. However, the cost of natural selection for new alleles that arise by mutation is assumed to be high, based on the assumption that new mutant alleles arise in natural populations as single events [1/(2N) of the total alleles]. However, not all mutant alleles arise as single events. Premeiotic mutations occur frequently in individuals (germinal mosaics), giving rise to multiple copies of identical mutant alleles called a “cluster” (C) with an initial allele frequency of C/(2N) instead of 1/(2N). These clusters of new mutant alleles reduce the cost of natural selection in direct proportion to the relative size of the cluster. Hence new advantageous alleles that arise by mutation have the greatest chance of going to fixation if they occur in large clusters in small populations.

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