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Our understanding of the evolutionary consequences of mutation relies heavily on estimates of the rate and fitness effect of spontaneous mutations generated by mutation accumulation (MA) experiments. We performed a classic MA experiment in which frequent sampling of MA lines was combined with whole genome resequencing to develop a high-resolution picture of the effect of spontaneous mutations in a hypermutator (ΔmutS) strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. After ∼644 generations of mutation accumulation, MA lines had accumulated an average of 118 mutations, and we found that average fitness across all lines decayed linearly over time. Detailed analyses of the dynamics of fitness change in individual lines revealed that a large fraction of the total decay in fitness (42.3%) was attributable to the fixation of rare, highly deleterious mutations (comprising only 0.5% of fixed mutations). Furthermore, we found that at least 0.64% of mutations were beneficial and probably fixed due to positive selection. The majority of mutations that fixed (82.4%) were base substitutions and we failed to find any signatures of selection on nonsynonymous or intergenic mutations. Short indels made up a much smaller fraction of the mutations that were fixed (17.4%), but we found evidence of strong selection against indels that caused frameshift mutations in coding regions. These results help to quantify the amount of natural selection present in microbial MA experiments and demonstrate that changes in fitness are strongly influenced by rare mutations of large effect.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





981 - 990


Pseudomonas aeruginosa, experimental evolution, hypermutator, spontaneous mutation, whole genome resequencing, Bacterial Proteins, DNA, Intergenic, Genes, Bacterial, Genetic Fitness, INDEL Mutation, Mutagenesis, Mutation, Open Reading Frames, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Selection, Genetic