Description and validation of a method for simultaneous estimation of effective population size and mutation rate from human population data

Ranajit Chakraborty, J. V. Neel

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A method is presented for utilizing population data on electrophoretic variants of proteins to estimate simultaneously the effective sizes (N(e) values) of the populations in question and the rate of mutation resulting in electromorphs at the loci whose products were surveyed. The method is applied to data from 12 relatively unacculturated Amerindian tribes for whom census data and independent estimates of the number of different electrophoretic variants at 27 loci are available. Because of tribal demographic structure, N(e) should be less than the current number of reproductive-aged adults. In fact, it is substantially greater for 7 tribes, most likely due to intertribal migration and a recent decrease in tribal size. Estimates of locus mutation rates for the 27 loci vary by more than a factor of 20, with an average of 1.1 x 10-5 per locus per generation. This latter estimate is in satisfactory agreement with the results of other indirect approaches to the estimation of mutation rates in these tribes but about two times higher than the results of direct estimates based on these same loci in studies on civilized populations. This discrepancy could be due to the above-hypothesized migration and to decreases in tribal size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9407-9411
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 1989



  • South American Indian tribes
  • maximum likelihood estimation
  • number of alleles

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