Clonal interference is alleviated by high mutation rates in large populations.

Bollback JP & Huelsenbeck JP

(2007) Mol Biol Evol 24, 1397-1406.

When a beneficial mutation is fixed in a population that lacks recombination, the genetic background linked to that mutation is fixed. As a result, beneficial mutations on different backgrounds experience competition, or "clonal interference," that can cause asexual populations to evolve more slowly than their sexual counterparts. Factors such as a large population size (N) and high mutation rates (mu) increase the number of competing beneficial mutations, and hence are expected to increase the intensity of clonal interference. However, recent theory suggests that, with very large values of Nmu, the severity of clonal interference may instead decline. The reason is that, with large Nmu, genomes including both beneficial mutations are rapidly created by recurrent mutation, obviating the need for recombination. Here, we analyze data from experimentally evolved asexual populations of a bacteriophage and find that, in these nonrecombining populations with very large Nmu, recurrent mutation does appear to ameliorate this cost of asexuality.

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Andrew Rambaut, 2007