Significant Strain Variation in the Mutation Spectra of Inbred Laboratory Mice.

Beth L Dumont, The Jackson Laboratory


Mutation provides the ultimate source of all new alleles in populations, including variants that cause disease and fuel adaptation. Recent whole genome sequencing studies have uncovered variation in the mutation rate among individuals and differences in the relative frequency of specific nucleotide changes (the mutation spectrum) between populations. Although parental age is a major driver of differences in overall mutation rate among individuals, the causes of variation in the mutation spectrum remain less well understood. Here, I use high-quality whole genome sequences from 29 inbred laboratory mouse strains to explore the root causes of strain variation in the mutation spectrum. My analysis leverages the unique, mosaic patterns of genetic relatedness among inbred mouse strains to identify strain private variants residing on haplotypes shared between multiple strains due to their recent descent from a common ancestor. I show that these strain-private alleles are strongly enriched for recent de novo mutations and lack signals of widespread purifying selection, suggesting their faithful recapitulation of the spontaneous mutation landscape in single strains. The spectrum of strain-private variants varies significantly among inbred mouse strains reared under standardized laboratory conditions. This variation is not solely explained by strain differences in age at reproduction, raising the possibility that segregating genetic differences affect the constellation of new mutations that arise in a given strain. Collectively, these findings imply the action of remarkably precise nucleotide-specific genetic mechanisms for tuning the de novo mutation landscape in mammals and underscore the genetic complexity of mutation rate control.