Multivariate stabilizing selection and pleiotropy in the maintenance of quantitative genetic variation

Evolution. 2003 Aug;57(8):1761-75. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2003.tb00584.x.


We investigate maintenance of quantitative genetic variation at mutation-selection balance for multiple traits. The intrinsic strength of real stabilizing selection on one of these traits denoted the "target trait" and the observed strength of apparent stabilizing selection on the target trait can be quite different: the latter, which is estimable, is much smaller (i.e., implying stronger selection) than the former. Distinguishing them may enable the mutation load to be relaxed when considering multivariate stabilizing selection. It is shown that both correlations among mutational effects and among strengths of real stabilizing selection on the traits are not important unless they are high. The analysis for independent situations thus provides a good approximation to the case where mutant and stabilizing selection effects are correlated. Multivariate stabilizing selection can be regarded as a combination of stabilizing selection on the target trait and the pleiotropic direct selection on fitness that is solely due to the effects of real stabilizing selection on the hidden traits. As the overall fitness approaches a constant value as the number of traits increases, multivariate stabilizing selection can maintain abundant genetic variance only under quite weak selection. The common observations of high polygenic variance and strong stabilizing selection thus imply that if the mutation-selection balance is the true mechanism of maintenance of genetic variation, the apparent stabilizing selection cannot arise solely by real stabilizing selection simultaneously on many metric traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Variation*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation*
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Selection, Genetic*