Most 'silent' genetic mutations are harmful
Scientists had deciphered the genetic code of life, determining the rules by which information in DNA molecules is translated into proteins, the working parts of living cells.

The study involved the genetic manipulation of yeast cells in the laboratory, University of Michigan biologists show that most synonymous mutations are strongly harmful. They chose to address this question in budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) because the organism's short generation time (about 80 minutes) and small size allowed them to measure the effects of a large number of synonymous mutations relatively quickly, precisely and conveniently.They used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to construct more than 8,000 mutant yeast strains, each carrying a synonymous, nonsynonymous or nonsense mutation in one of 21 genes the researchers targeted. Then they quantified the "fitness" of each mutant strain by measuring how quickly it reproduced relative to the nonmutant strain. Darwinian fitness, simply put, refers to the number of offspring an individual has. In this case, measuring the reproductive rates of the yeast strains showed whether the mutations were beneficial, harmful or neutral.

To their surprise, the researchers found that 75.9% of synonymous mutations were significantly deleterious, while 1.3% were significantly beneficial.