Hermann Muller on Measuring Mutation Rates

By Gelling, Cristy | Genetics, February 2016 | Go to article overview

Hermann Muller on Measuring Mutation Rates


Gelling, Cristy, Genetics


The task of actually counting mutations [...] to compare their frequencies of occurrence [...] would have seemed almost like that of counting needles in haystacks, to compare their frequencies, or like making graphs to show the rates of occurrence of gold pieces on streets of different types. H. J. Muller (1928)

For the pioneers of genetics, mutants were precious. Although they were extremely useful, mutants with readily detectable phenotypes were so rare that it was as impractical to measure mutation rates as to measure the average number of needles in a haystack.

But Hermann Joseph Muller (with contributions from Edgar Altenburg) developed a reliable approach for assaying mutation rate. Muller's methods, published in GENETICS in 1928, helped to uncover crucial clues about the nature of mutation. Those methods also led to Muller's winning a Nobel prize for showing that X rays increased mutation rates.

The trick, Muller found, was to look fora more plentiful type of needle. He focused his efforts on lethal mutations, which he and Altenburg had shown to be much more common than the morphologicalmutants commonly studied at the time. Thefirst major test of their methods was to compare mutation rates in Drosophila at different temperatures. Muller found a small but statistically significant increase in mutation rate at higher temperatures. This was the first demonstration that mutation rates could be altered by an external influence.

As Muller was writing up a comprehensive account of these experiments, he started testing the effects of X rays on mutaCopyright tion rates. It became immediately apparent that radiation exposure massively increased mutation rates. And Muller's quantitative methods put hard numbers on the increase.

Muller raced off a cursory note to Science to establish priority, and the GENETICS article describing the methods development and temperature result was published the following year. As well as marking a new era in mutation studies, the GENETICS article kick-started this journal'slongtraditionof publishing foundational work that uses mutation rates to investigate the mechanisms of inheritance and evolution.

Communicating editor: M. F. Wolfner

[Sidebar]

ORIGINAL CITATION

The Measurement of Gene Mutation Rate in Drosophila, Its High Variability, and Its Dependence upon Temperature

Hermann Joseph Muller

Genetics July 1, 1928 13: 279-357

[Reference]

Further Reading in GENETICS

Carlson, E. A., 2011 Speaking out about the social implications of science: the uneven legacy of H. J. Muller. Genetics 187: 1-7.

Crow, J. F., 1995 Quarreling geneticists and a diplomat. Genetics 140: 421-426.

Crow, J. F., 2006 H. J. Muller and the "Competition Hoax." Genetics 173: 511-514.

Crow, J. F., and S. Abrahamson, 1997 Seventy years ago: mutation becomes experimental. Genetics 147: 1491-1496.

Drake, J. W., B. Charlesworth, D. Charlesworth, and J. F. Crow, 1998 Rates of spontaneous mutation. Genetics 148: 1667- 1686.

Gao, Z., D. Waggoner, M. Stephens, C. Ober, and M. Przeworski, 2015 An estimate of the average number of recessive lethal mutations carried by humans. Genetics 199: 1243-1254.

Houle, D., B. Morikawa, and M. Lynch, 1996 Comparing mutational variabilities. Genetics 143: 1467-1483.

Johnson, N. A., 2002 Sixty years after "Isolating Mechanisms, Evolution and Temperature": Muller's legacy. Genetics 161: 939-944.

Keightley, P. D., 2012 Rates and fitness consequences of new mutations in humans. Genetics 190: 295-304.

Lang, G. I., and A. W. Murray, 2008 Estimating the per-base-pair mutation rate in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Hermann Muller on Measuring Mutation Rates
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.