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This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from The 5th IEEE International Conference on Systems Biology (ISB 2011)

Open Access Research

Absorbing phenomena and escaping time for Muller's ratchet in adaptive landscape

Shuyun Jiao12 and Ping Ao13*

Author Affiliations

1 Shanghai Center for Systems Biomedicine, State Key Laboratory of Oncogenes and Related Genes, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 200240, Shanghai, China

2 Department of Mathematics, Xinyang Normal University, 464000, Xinyang, Henan, China

3 Department of Physics, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 200240, Shanghai, China

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BMC Systems Biology 2012, 6(Suppl 1):S10  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-6-S1-S10

Published: 16 July 2012



The accumulation of deleterious mutations of a population directly contributes to the fate as to how long the population would exist, a process often described as Muller's ratchet with the absorbing phenomenon. The key to understand this absorbing phenomenon is to characterize the decaying time of the fittest class of the population. Adaptive landscape introduced by Wright, a re-emerging powerful concept in systems biology, is used as a tool to describe biological processes. To our knowledge, the dynamical behaviors for Muller's ratchet over the full parameter regimes are not studied from the point of the adaptive landscape. And the characterization of the absorbing phenomenon is not yet quantitatively obtained without extraneous assumptions as well.


We describe how Muller's ratchet can be mapped to the classical Wright-Fisher process in both discrete and continuous manners. Furthermore, we construct the adaptive landscape for the system analytically from the general diffusion equation. The constructed adaptive landscape is independent of the existence and normalization of the stationary distribution. We derive the formula of the single click time in finite and infinite potential barrier for all parameters regimes by mean first passage time.


We describe the dynamical behavior of the population exposed to Muller's ratchet in all parameters regimes by adaptive landscape. The adaptive landscape has rich structures such as finite and infinite potential, real and imaginary fixed points. We give the formula about the single click time with finite and infinite potential. And we find the single click time increases with selection rates and population size increasing, decreases with mutation rates increasing. These results provide a new understanding of infinite potential. We analytically demonstrate the adaptive and unadaptive states for the whole parameters regimes. Interesting issues about the parameters regions with the imaginary fixed points is demonstrated. Most importantly, we find that the absorbing phenomenon is characterized by the adaptive landscape and the single click time without any extraneous assumptions. These results suggest a graphical and quantitative framework to study the absorbing phenomenon.