Evolutionary factors which tend to decrease the mutation rate through natural selection and those which tend to increase the mutation rate are discussed from the standpoint of population genetics. The author's theory of optimum mutation rate based on the principle of minimum genetic load is re-examined, assuming that mutation rate is adjusted in the course of evolution in such a way that the sum of mutational and substitutional load is minimized. Another hypothesis is also examined that only selection toward lowering the mutation rate is effective and the present mutation rate in each organism represents the physical or physiological limit that may be attained by natural selection.
The possibility cannot be excluded that the spontaneous mutation rate is near the minimum that may be attained under the present mode of organization of the genetic material, and at the same time is not very far from the optimum in the sense of minimizing the genetic load.
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