Soft sweeps: molecular population genetics of adaptation from standing genetic variation

Genetics. 2005 Apr;169(4):2335-52. doi: 10.1534/genetics.104.036947. Epub 2005 Feb 16.


A population can adapt to a rapid environmental change or habitat expansion in two ways. It may adapt either through new beneficial mutations that subsequently sweep through the population or by using alleles from the standing genetic variation. We use diffusion theory to calculate the probabilities for selective adaptations and find a large increase in the fixation probability for weak substitutions, if alleles originate from the standing genetic variation. We then determine the parameter regions where each scenario-standing variation vs. new mutations-is more likely. Adaptations from the standing genetic variation are favored if either the selective advantage is weak or the selection coefficient and the mutation rate are both high. Finally, we analyze the probability of "soft sweeps," where multiple copies of the selected allele contribute to a substitution, and discuss the consequences for the footprint of selection on linked neutral variation. We find that soft sweeps with weaker selective footprints are likely under both scenarios if the mutation rate and/or the selection coefficient is high.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mutation
  • Poisson Distribution