General formulation of Luria-Delbrück distribution of the number of mutants
Abstract The Luria-Delbrück experiment is a cornerstone of evolutionary theory, demonstrating the randomness of mutations before selection. The distribution of the number of mutants in this experiment has been the subject of intense investigation during the last 70 years. Despite this considerable effort, most of the results have been obtained under the assumption of constant growth rate, which is far from the experimental condition. We derive here the properties of this distribution for arbitrary growth function, for both the deterministic and stochastic growth of the mutants. The derivation we propose is surprisingly simple and versatile, allowing many generalizations to be taken easily into account.