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Experimental mutation-accumulation on the X chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster reveals stronger selection on males than females

Martin A Mallet*, Jessica M Bouchard, Christopher M Kimber and Adam K Chippindale

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:156  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-156

Published: 6 June 2011



Sex differences in the magnitude or direction of mutational effect may be important to a variety of population processes, shaping the mutation load and affecting the cost of sex itself. These differences are expected to be greatest after sexual maturity. Mutation-accumulation (MA) experiments provide the most direct way to examine the consequences of new mutations, but most studies have focused on juvenile viability without regard to sex, and on autosomes rather than sex chromosomes; both adult fitness and X-linkage have been little studied. We therefore investigated the effects of 50 generations of X-chromosome mutation accumulation on the fitness of males and females derived from an outbred population of Drosophila melanogaster.


Fitness declined rapidly in both sexes as a result of MA, but adult males showed markedly greater fitness loss relative to their controls compared to females expressing identical genotypes, even when females were made homozygous for the X. We estimate that these mutations are partially additive (h ~ 0.3) in females. In addition, the majority of new mutations appear to harm both males and females.


Our data helps fill a gap in our understanding of the consequences of sexual selection for genetic load, and suggests that stronger selection on males may indeed purge deleterious mutations affecting female fitness.