RNA viruses show the highest mutation rate in nautre. It has been extensively demonstrated that, in the absence of purifying selection, RNA viruses accumulate deleterious mutations at a high rate. However, the parameters describing this accumulation are, in general, poorly understood. The present study reports evidences for fitness declines by the accumulation of deleterious mutations in the bacteriophage MS2. We estimated the rate of fitness decline to be as high as 16% per bottleneck transfer. In addition, our results agree with an additive model of fitness effects.
Corresponding Editor: M. Riley