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De novo mutations in domestic cat are consistent with an effect of reproductive longevity on both the rate and spectrum of mutations

By Richard J Wang, Muthuswamy Raveendran, Ronald Alan Harris, William J Murphy, Leslie A. Lyons, Jeffrey Rogers, Matthew W. Hahn

Posted 06 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.06.438608

The mutation rate is a fundamental evolutionary parameter with direct and appreciable effects on the health and function of individuals. Here, we examine this important parameter in the domestic cat, a beloved companion animal as well as a valuable biomedical model. We estimate a mutation rate of 0.86 x 10-8 per bp per generation for the domestic cat (at an average age of 3.8 years). We find evidence for a strong paternal age effect, with more mutations transmitted by older sires. Our analyses suggest that the cat and the human have accrued similar numbers of mutations in the germline before reaching sexual maturity. The per-generation mutation rate in the cat is slightly lower than what has been observed in humans, but consistent with the shorter generation time in the cat. Using a model of reproductive longevity, which takes into account differences in the reproductive age and time to sexual maturity, we are able to explain much of the difference in per-generation rates between species. We further apply our reproductive longevity model in a novel analysis of mutation spectra and find that the spectrum for the cat resembles the human mutation spectrum at a younger age of reproduction. Together, these results implicate changes in life-history as a driver of mutation rate evolution between species. As the first direct observation of the paternal age effect outside of primates, our results also suggest a phenomenon that may be universal among mammals.

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