For clonal lineages of finite size that differ in their deleterious mutational effects, the probability of fixation is investigated by mathematical theory and Monte Carlo simulations. If these fitness effects are sufficiently small in one or both lineages, then the lineage with the less deleterious effects will become fixed with high probability. If, however, in both lineages the deleterious effects are larger than a threshold sc, then the probability of fixation is independent of the fitness effects and depends only on the initial frequencies of the lineages. This threshold decreases with decreasing genomic mutation rate U and increases with population size N. (For N = 105, we have sc ≈ 0.1 if U = 1, and sc ≈ 0.015 if U = 0.1). Above the threshold, the competition is not driven by the ratio of mean fitnesses of the lineages, but by the relative sizes of the zero-mutation classes, which are independent of the fitness effects of the mutations. After the loss of the zero-mutation class of a lineage, the other lineage will spread to fixation with high probability and within a short time span. If the mutation rates of the lineages differ substantially, the lineage with the lower mutation rate is fixed with very high probability unless the lineage with the larger mutation rate has very slightly deleterious mutational effects. If the mutation rates differ by not more than a few percent, then the lineage with the higher mutation rate and the more deleterious effects can become fixed with appreciable probability for a certain range of parameters. The independence of the fixation probability on the fitness effects in a single population leads to dramatic effects in metapopulations: lineages with more deleterious effects have a much higher fixation probability. The critical value sc, above which this phenomenon occurs, decreases as the migration rate between the subpopulations decreases.
Corresponding Editor: A. Caballero