1. Evolutionary Biology
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Selection on mutators is not frequency-dependent

  1. Yevgeniy Raynes  Is a corresponding author
  2. Daniel Weinreich
  1. Brown University, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e51177 doi: 10.7554/eLife.51177


The evolutionary fate of mutator mutations – genetic variants that raise the genome-wide mutation rate – in asexual populations is often described as being frequency (or number) dependent. Mutators can invade a population by hitchhiking with a sweeping beneficial mutation, but motivated by earlier experiments results, it has been repeatedly suggested that mutators must be sufficiently frequent to produce such a driver mutation before non-mutators do. Here, we use stochastic, agent-based simulations to show that neither the strength nor the sign of selection on mutators depend on their initial frequency, and while the overall probability of hitchhiking increases predictably with frequency, the per-capita probability of fixation remains unchanged.

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Author details

  1. Yevgeniy Raynes

    Center for Computational Molecular Biology, Brown University, Providence, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-1608-9479
  2. Daniel Weinreich

    Center for Computational Molecular Biology, Brown University, Providence, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-1424-7541


National Science Foundation (DEB-1556300)

  • Yevgeniy Raynes
  • Daniel Weinreich

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Patricia J Wittkopp, University of Michigan, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: August 17, 2019
  2. Accepted: November 5, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 7, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: November 20, 2019 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record updated: November 22, 2019 (version 3)


© 2019, Raynes & Weinreich

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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