Mutagen-Mutation Equilibria in Evolution

  • H. Nöthel
Part of the Advances in Mutagenesis Research book series (MUTAGENESIS, volume 1)


Mutations are double-faced like Janus. They are most often detrimental to their carriers — they also represent the ultimate source of genetic variability and, hence, of evolution. This antagonism requires a delicate balance. It may be achieved by one or more of three different strategies:
  1. 1.

    Mutations do not entirely occur at random in the genome. This is evident for specific types of somatic mutations in mammals (Baltimore 1981; Golub 1987; Meyer et al. 1986) and for transposon-induction of mutations in the germ line (Engels and Preston 1984; O’Hare and Rubin 1983; Rubin et al. 1982; see also Campbell 1983, and Syvanen 1984).

  2. 2.

    Mutation rates are adjusted to evolutionary requirements. This has since long been discussed controversially (Benado et al. 1976; Biémont et al. 1987; Chao et al. 1983; Cox and Gibson 1974; Dobzhansky et al. 1952; Gillespie 1981; Holsinger and Feldman 1983; Ives 1950; Nöthel 1983, 1987; Sturtevant 1937) but seems more likely in view of the surprising mixture of error-proof and error-prone (i.e. mutagenic) mechanisms of DNA repair (Kimball 1987).

  3. 3.

    In diploids, the genetic load due to recessive variants is not a mutational load that has to be avoided in order to gain optimal population fitness, but mainly is a tolerable “segregational noise” produced by selectively favoured heterozygotes according to the “balance-hypothesis”.



Mutation Rate Genetic Load Immature Oocyte Hybrid Male Hybrid Dysgenesis 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Nöthel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Allgemeine GenetikFreie Universität BerlinBerlin-33Germany

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