Radical amino acid mutations persist longer in the absence of sex.

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Asexual reproduction; mitochondrial genome, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, purifying selection; selective interference; sexual reproduction


Harmful mutations are ubiquitous and inevitable, and the rate at which these mutations are removed from populations is a critical determinant of evolutionary fate. Closely related sexual and asexual taxa provide a particularly powerful setting to study deleterious mutation elimination because sexual reproduction should facilitate mutational clearance by reducing selective interference between sites and by allowing the production of offspring with different mutational complements than their parents. Here, we compared the rate of removal of conservative (i.e., similar biochemical properties) and radical (i.e., distinct biochemical properties) nonsynonymous mutations from mitochondrial genomes of sexual versus asexual Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a New Zealand freshwater snail characterized by coexisting and ecologically similar sexual and asexual lineages. Our analyses revealed that radical nonsynonymous mutations are cleared at higher rates than conservative changes and that sexual lineages eliminate radical changes more rapidly than asexual counterparts. These results are consistent with reduced efficacy of purifying selection in asexual lineages allowing harmful mutations to remain polymorphic longer than in sexual lineages. Together, these data illuminate some of the population-level processes contributing to mitochondrial mutation accumulation and suggest that mutation accumulation could influence the outcome of competition between sexual and asexual lineages.


Institute for Systems Biology