Genetic variability maintained by mutation and overdominant selection in finite populations

Genetics. 1981 Jun;98(2):441-59. doi: 10.1093/genetics/98.2.441.


Mathematical properties of the overdominance model with mutation and random genetic drift are studied by using the method of stochastic differential equations (Itô and McKean 1974). It is shown that overdominant selection is very powerful in increasing the mean heterozygosity as compared with neutral mutations, and if 2Ns (N = effective population size; s = selective disadvantage for homozygotes) is larger than 10, a very low mutation rate is sufficient to explain the observed level of allozyme polymorphism. The distribution of heterozygosity for overdominant genes is considerably different from that of neutral mutations, and if the ratio of selection coefficient (s) to mutation rate (nu) is large and the mean heterozygosity (h) is lower than 0.2, single-locus heterozygosity is either approximately 0 or 0.5. If h increases further, however, heterozygosity shows a multiple-peak distribution. Reflecting this type of distribution, the relationship between the mean and variance of heterozygosity is considerably different from that for neutral genes. When s/v is large, the proportion of polymorphic loci increases approximately linearly with mean heterozygosity. The distribution of allele frequencies is also drastically different from that of neutral genes, and generally shows a peak at the intermediate gene frequency. Implications of these results on the maintenance of allozyme polymorphism are discussed.